Refugee rights organizations made a statement making their demands on June 20, World Refugee Day. The statement highlighted the challenges and stressed the legal and political deficiencies refugees facing in the northern part of Cyprus. “Racism and xenophobia should not be tolerated,” the statement said.
Statement is as follows:
20 June World Refugee Day aims to understand and hear the stories of refugees. Refugees are people who are forced to flee their home countries because their lives and freedoms are in danger there..Leaving behind all that’s dear to them is not the only ordeal they’re faced with; they encounter immense hardships and risks in their quest for safety. World Refugee Day is an annual call to honour their resilience and courage of refugees, listen to their stories, reaffirm our support and express our solidarity with them.
In the northern part of Cyprus, shortcomings of domestic laws and policies do not prevent those, who have been forcibly displaced, from coming to or crossing through here. The rights of refugee children, adults, women and men are systematically violated at the land we call ours, by our laws and authorities.
On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, we, organisations that long for a world where there are no wars and no-one is forcibly displaced, call the authorities to take the following minimum measures:
- Practices that involve criminalisation of asylum seekersonly by reason of entering our island without authorisation should immediately be stopped. Criminalisation of people who have no other choice than fleeing war and persecution, on account only of their irregular entry or stay is against both our conscience and the international law.
- Asylum seekers and refugees that wish to access international protection or unify with their family members residing in Cyprus should not be detained in transit at ports and airports for long periods of time. They should not be refused entry and sent back to countries where their lives and freedoms would be in danger. If legal and safe pathways were available to refugees, they would not have to resort to human smugglers and traffickers and risk their lives in order to find safety.
- The immigration status of refugees residing in the northern part of the island should be secured. Due to lack of a specific status for refugees, many reside with employment permits that do not ensure the full scope of protection that refugees need. Upon cessation of the employment permit many refugees risk of being returned to risk of war and persecution. Meanwhile many of them face labour exploitation and poor working conditions. It is therefore imperative to review the status of refugees and the rights pertaining thereto.
- Racism and xenophobia is a problem affecting all migrant communities. Refugees, in particular, are impacted by an increasingly toxic and anti-migrant rhetoric which prevails in the political and public discourse. This divisive rhetoric is based on the perceptions that one’s own tradition and culture is more important than others’; that ‘different cultures cannot live together’. In many cases refugees are portrayed as criminals, illegals, terrorists and as people posing threat to national security or a burden on the national economy. In other cases, they are portrayed as the weak and poor who are to be pitied, instead of people in need who deserve not only our compassion, but also our support to stand on their own feet. Racism and xenophobia should not be tolerated. We shall all address our stereotypes and prejudices by staying informed, by listening to individual stories of refugees and by getting to know them.
On this World Refugee Day, let’s all voice our determination to put an end to human rights violations and to improve the protection of human rights of all including those who were forced to flee their homes.
In the context of World Refugee Day, we are organising an event titled #bettertogether.
The event will take place tomorrow, on the21st of June, Friday, in Lefkeliler Inn, in Nicosia at 18:30 and we are saying that we are “better together”. During the event there will be food and music from different parts of the world as well as information stands of NGOs and civil society organisation. Join us and take part in this event and express you solidarity to refugees. Food, music and fun unites all!
Avrupa Akseniz Sanat Derneği (EMAA) – European Mediterranean Art
Devrimci İşçi Sendikaları Federasyonu (DEV-İŞ) – Revolutionary Trade
Doğu Akdeniz Üniversitesi Akademik Personel Sendikası (DAÜ-SEN) –
Eastern Mediterranean University Union of Academic Staff
Evrensel Hasta Hakları Derneği – Universal Patients’ Rights Association
Kadın Eğitimi Kolektifi (KEK) Women’s Education Collective
Kıbrıs Türk Barolar Birliği İnsan Hakları Komitesi – Human Rights
Committee of Cyprus Turkish Bar Association
Kıbrıs Türk Gazeteciler Birliği – Turkish Cypriot Journalist Association
Kıbrıs Türk Orta Eğitim Öğretmenler Sendikası (KTOEÖS) – Cyprus Turkish
Secondary School Teachers’ Trade Union
Kıbrıs Türk Öğretmenler Sendikası (KTÖS) – Cyprus Turkish Teachers’
Kuir Kıbrıs Derneği – Queer Cyprus Association
Mağusa Gençlik Merkezi Derneği (MAGEM) – Famagusta Youth Centre
Mesarya Kadınları İnisiyatifi – Mesarya Women’s Initiative
Mülteci Hakları Derneği – Refugee Rights Association
VOIS Kıbrıs – VOIS Cyprus
SOS Çocukköyü Derneği – SOS Children’s Village Association
Tarihsel Diyalog ve Araştırma Derneği (AHDR) –
Association for Historical Dialogue and Research