Press Release – WORLD REFUGEE DAY
On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism, highlights once again the serious challenges and gaps in the asylum system in Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus, 56 years after the ratification of the Geneva Convention 1951 and 15 years after the harmonisation with the European acquis concerning refugees, has failed to demonstrate the required will and vision for developing an effective and fair asylum system.
Invoking the increasing number of asylum applications during the last two years cannot take away the fact that the same, or even worse, issues were faced during previous years, when the number of new asylum applications had been much smaller. Unfortunately, the State has exhibited indifference and negligence in developing and adopting policies, structures and procedures all throughout the previous and less pressing period, which would have placed the State in a much better position to respond to today’s challenges in an efficient and just manner. In addition, the Cypriot authorities have failed to produce any substantive solutions to address systemic gaps and deficiencies in the area of migration so as to reduce the number of migrants who are often forced to resort to the asylum procedures after having been unfairly deprived of their residence and employment status.
Since 2007, KISA had called upon the relevant authorities to abolish the Refugee Reviewing Authority and to proceed with the establishment of an International Protection Court, in order to limit the duration of the examination of asylum applications but also in order to make the procedure fairer, in line with Cyprus’ legal obligations. Instead and after the conviction of Cyprus in several asylum cases that we had filed to the ECtHR, the Administrative Court was established, to be abandoned again and to be replaced at last by the International Protection Court, as called for by KISA since 2007. It is noted that, for expediencies and serving different interests, Cyprus continues to maintain the Refugee Reviewing Authority, which makes the country the only member state in the EU with a 3-tier system for examining asylum applications, the duration of which may last between 3-5 years.
Most applicants lodge their applications and are present for their interviews, but they are also required to appear in court without any specialised legal support, which means that they are not always in a position to correctly express and support their cases. As a result, many of them are not recognised as refugees and the Cypriot government fails to adequately implement its legal obligations for ensuring fair asylum procedures.
In our opinion, a fair asylum system requires a policy and a vision which treat refugees as a source of contribution to society and not as dependants of the welfare system. Unfortunately, the absence of a comprehensive and effective integration policy coupled with the exacerbation of discriminatory and racist phenomena in our society render refugees stranded and without any substantial opportunities to utilise their potential and to actively participate in society.
On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, which has been set to celebrate support and solidarity with refugees, KISA calls upon the Republic of Cyprus to immediately proceed to address the following:
- Α The development of an asylum policy that safeguards the effective and fair processing of asylum applications, and which safeguards the equal treatment and the exercise of the rights of refugees while positively utilises their presence in the Cypriot society.
- The development and implementation of a policy and action plan for the integration of refugees and the combatting of xenophobia and racism, within the framework of which there will be promotion and encouragement of their active participation and utilisation of their qualifications and skills as opposed to the marginalisation that they have been facing.
Steering Committee of KISA