Solidarity Walk in Support of Refugees
On Thursday 06/01/2022, Hade and Generation for Change CY organized a Solidarity walk in support of asylum seekers and refugees in Cyprus to highlight the challenges they encounter.
The walk started at 9:30 am from the Pournara camp in Kokkinotrimithia. The participants walked for about 5 hours to express their solidarity with the asylum seekers and refugees who encounter multiple challenges in their efforts to apply for international protection and integrate into the host community.
The awareness-raising event consisted of the solidarity walk and a gathering directly after at Nicosia Municipal park. At the Nicosia Municipal Park, people had the chance to listen to live music, attend speeches from migration experts and hear personal stories and experiences from migrants of our community.
There are many barriers preventing refugees, asylum seekers and migrants all over Cyprus from accessing their basic rights under the law. The situation at Pournara is one example of severe discrimination, segregation and rights violations committed towards non-nationals that is kept out of plain sight and that has reached a stage of normalisation.
Several topics raised by the participants today referred to:
- Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been countless reports of pushbacks in the sea and land. Refugees are being deprived of their right to asylum. Barb wires set in the green line, boats being pushed away from the Cypriot sea territories, and more than 180 asylum seekers denied the right to lodge their application last winter points outs the hindrance and denial of access to asylum.
- Pournara centre was initially built for the purposes of lodging asylum applications, issuing documents and performing medical screenings that would take 72 hours. Today it exceeds its capacity by at least 1000 people are some individuals are kept there 4-5 months.
- Once again, COVID-19 is used as the primary justification for detaining more than 700 asylum seekers in the closed centre Limnes.
- To acquire exit permission from the reception centers (i.e., Pournara) refugees requesting international protection are required to provide a house address in the community. Such a requirement allows fraud, and a significant number of refugees have fallen victims to scams by individuals posing as a landlord renting them non-existing homes.
- The system implemented for refugees to have access to their benefits takes too long and multiple times appeared to be dysfunctional as a number of the entitled beneficiaries may not receive minimal support leaving them to live under destitute deprived of basic needs such as food.
- There is a lack of vocational training and limited language classes that are essential for the development of refugees skills and meaningful access to employment.
- Access to the labour market is restricted as asylum seekers are only permitted to work in specific low-paid low-status jobs and often fall victim to extreme exploitation and labour trafficking.
- There are no effective complaints mechanism for refugees to report the racial violence, discrimination and exploitation they fall victim to on a daily basis.
- Rather than focus on proper integration and inclusion, The existing policies in Cyprus focus on the exclusion of refugees and the perpetuation of their marginalization.
Generation for Change CY and Hade together with the participants called on everyone to show humanity and sensitivity to protect human rights.
Finally, Generation for Change CY would like to express our gratitude to Hade for inviting us to be part of such a significant initiative.