In recent months we have been witness to a systematic effort to stigmatize the Palestinians of Iraq and all refugees in general who have applied for international protection in Cyprus as ‘’illegal immigrants’’, ‘’dangerous criminals’’ and ‘’exploiters of the welfare state’’. The distortion of facts and deliberate spreading of lies, false and partial information is now a component of the election campaign of almost all political sides as well as of particular politicians. Facts and information from many surveys and studies, such as the Pan European Survey MIPEX, which puts Cyprus in the last but one place concerning the rights of third country nationals, contradicting categorically the propaganda portraying Cyprus as ‘’heaven and land of excessive welfare benefits’’, are utterly ignored. Particularly worrying is the fact that this effort is being led by a substantial number of officials and parliamentary candidates of DISY, a party, which until recently presented a very different discourse concerning national chauvinism and racism.
Since last October, with the establishment of the racist and chauvinist front and the related marches in Larnaca, there is a concerted attempt to use isolated acts of violence, either among refugees or between refugees and police officers, about which KISA has reservations as to whether they are not actually controlled and motivated from elsewhere so as to create, on the one hand, an atmosphere of acceptance of their intolerant and racist policies and, on the other, to give an advantage over the ruling party in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Contributors to the furthering of these ideas are of course particular media and media people known for their relation to police.
KISA condemns the violent incidents that have recently taken place , namely the clashes between refugees and Arabs at the end of November, incidents at the Welfare Office, at Vergina Lyceum, in Pyla and recently at the Reception Centre in Larnaca. It seems, however, that these incidents are either motivated and have as leaders persons with connections with the authorities or they have been exploited and manipulated by the authorities in order to create an impression that the Palestinians are highly dangerous and, therefore, what is required is not our solidarity but the cold hand of suppression.
Unfortunately, in this paranoid climate, the competent authorities lag behind such events, trying to persuade that they are more effective in suppression. A recent example is the announcement to illegally deport people with international protection for their involvement in violent incidents, even before the completion of police investigations so as for those involved to be eventually led before the Court to be judged guilty or not for charged leveled against them publicly through the media.
KISA urges the political forces to develop the necessary strength and resistance so as to prevent the misuse of these matters in a way that exploits and at the same feeds xenophobic and racist attitudes and behaviour, which at the end of day may sustain the expectation for short-term political gains but they will most certainly lead to a highly dangerous situation not only for migrants and refugees but for society at large as well.
In order to defuse this climate and prevent these dangerous situations, KISA urges the government to end all efforts and actions of deporting Palestinian refugees who, if found guilty of offences by a Court, will have to face the consequences of their acts.
KISA calls on the authorities to thoroughly investigate these recent incidents, including the information that these were motivated for other purposes and the version that many Palestinians are under undue pressure and accused on the basis of false information in order to intimidate them and halt their right to protest.
Finally, KISA urges the relevant authorities to end their policy of bypassing the NGOs which, with their participation, can contribute to a better and more effective tackling of the challenges posed by asylum.