Kurds set up ‘tent city’ in asylum protest
‘If other EU countries will recognise us as refugees, then why won’t Cyprus?’
MORE than 250 Kurdish Syrian Asylum seekers are expected to camp out in Nicosia this weekend, in protest against the Cyprus government's refusal to grant them refugee status.
Around 185 protestors, of which around 40 are children, have already been camped outside the Interior Ministry since Monday, in a row of bright orange tents and green tents. An additional 70 are expected to arrive today from Paphos and Limassol.
A spokesman for the Kurdish Syrian Yekiti Party, which has organised the demonstration, said yesterday: "We are demonstrating for refugee rights for Syrian Kurds in Cyprus. Iraqi Kurds get asylum here, and Syrian Kurds in other EU countries get refugee rights. Cyprus just rejects and deports us."
He said that he did not want refugee status in order to draw benefits from Cypriot resources. He wants them because, as a recognised refugee and Yekiti party member, this status would mean recognition of the Syrian Kurdish struggle for freedom from oppression. "When you give me refugee status, I can ask for rights for people in Syria."
Until that time, his party membership is enough to guarantee his imprisonment if he returns home. "I cannot live there because I have asked for the rights for Kurds in Syria. The government says that we are Arabs, not Kurds, but there are three million of us."
Another demonstrator explained that under the Cypriot asylum policy, rejected applicants' files are permanently closed and they have to return home. He described the cases of two Kurdish men and a Kurdish family who had been imprisoned on arrival back in Syria, because of their Yekiti Membership.
This process has reduced the total number of Kurdish Syrians in Cyprus from an estimated 3,000 five years ago, to around 1,500 today.
Asked where they have gone, the spokesman said most went to European countries like Switzerland or Germany, who recognised them as refugees.
“If other EU countries will recognise us as refugees, then why won’t Cyprus?”
The demonstrators intend to stay camped outside the ministry until they achieve recognition. However, they have received no response to their requests from the interior ministry, except a complaint to the police, at 2.20pm, that children were playing too noisily on the pavement.
Their requests for assistance for water have been ignored by the ministry and even the Red Cross. They are also awaiting response from the European Union, having presented the European Commission's office in Nicosia with a statement to justify the granting of refugee rights.
The statement said slammed the Syrian Baathist government's alleged systematic attempts to eradicate Kurdish culture and assimilate them into Syrian Arab culture, through, for ethnic cleansing through separation and isolation of Kurdish Syria, an 'Exceptional census' which "resulted in more than 1 half a million Kurds, who had been living in their own homeland, being stripped of their Syrian nationality certificate, thereby depriving them of the basic human right of surviving and prospering in their own country."
The statement added: "These racist discriminatory policies have deprived the Kurds of the constructional recognition of their cultural and national existence.”
(Source: Cyprus Mail)
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