Once again, the Cypriot authorities, in cooperation unfortunately with EU institutions, are using every available means, legal or not, time, misinformation and psychological blackmail to force refugees to “voluntarily” withdraw their applications for international protection and to return back to the conditions of insecurity and risk to themselves and their families.
Yesterday, we were informed by the Syrian refugee woman who remained in Cyprus while her husband and two children were illegally pushed back to Lebanon by the Cypriot authorities on 23/08/2021, that she had asked to withdraw her application for international protection and to return to Lebanon so as to be with her children who are constantly asking for her.
This decision was taken after she was visited two days earlier by two officers of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) and the European Asylum Support Office (ΕΑSΟ), which provide support services in issues of asylum to the Republic of Cyprus.
According to the Syrian refugee woman, the FRONTEX officer told her, among others, that Lebanon is considered to be a “safe” country and that according to the Cyprus legislation it is impossible to apply for family reunification, while the EASO officer “informed” her that after the interview with the Asylum Service she would have to wait for at least one year for the results and the probabilities of being recognised as a refugee are 1%. He also informed her that if she decided to appeal at the International Protection Administrative Court she would have to wait for five years for the results.
The statements of the FRONTEX / EASO officers are misleading and do not reflect reality:
- It is highly unethical and illegal for the authorities to make an estimate of the probabilities of asylum before conducting an individualised examination of an asylum application, especially in relation to the specific case of the Syrian refugee woman.
- They have failed to mention to the refugee woman the fact that the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights has asked the Asylum Service to proceed immediately to the examination of the said woman’s application for international protection and to proceed to all appropriate actions for granting permission to her husband and children to come to Cyprus.
- According to the Refugee Law and Directive Οδηγία 2013/32/ΕU, as a pregnant woman when she entered the Republic the Syrian refugee falls into the category of asylum seekers in need of special procedural guarantees and whose asylum applications can be examined rapidly.
- The establishment of the International Protection Administrative Court allows for the rapid examination of asylum applications by the Court as well, provided there is a relevant request, while it has the power and competence to grant refugee or other status, as a result of which the procedures before it to have been abbreviated substantially.
- According to the UN High Commission for Refugees and other international and European organisations, Lebanon is not considered as a safe country. And this especially under the present conditions and the death of 4 people and injury of many others in the recent demonstrations, while Syrian refugees are detained on their return and deported to Syria.
KISA considers the “information” data of the two officers to have been wrong, incomplete, misleading, and unethical and intended in bad faith to assist the government’s effort to “convince” the asylum seeker to return “voluntarily” to Lebanon where her family is, instead of reinstating the rights of the family, which they themselves have broken up, to Cyprus. It is reminded that the government had already attempted, unsuccessfully, with the offer of “a sum of money”, to convince the refugee woman to return to Lebanon.
KISA has In the meantime been informed that the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complains against the Police (ADIPA) has proceeded to an independent criminal and disciplinary investigation of the events during the illegal pushback of the Syrian refugees to Lebanon. We are of the opinion that there is a reasonable suspicion that the actions of the FRONTEX and EASO officers may have occurred at the request of the police or the Minister of Interior so as to remove the refugee woman, as the main eyewitness for the investigation.
In addition to informing the public opinion and Parliament in Cyprus, ADIPA and the Attorney General, KISA will proceed immediately to report the Cypriot authorities and the above institutions to the European Commission and the European Parliament, which have already commenced an investigation for illegal pushbacks by EU member states.