A REFUGEE who left behind his wife and four children in Syria was driven to suicide on Wednesday, in what migrant support group KISA said was just another example of the inability of Cypriot authorities to respond to desperate calls for help.
Mohammed, a Kurdish resident of Syria, fled from Syrian authorities and sought asylum in Cyprus some three months ago. He lived in the Paphos village of Arodes and was given the run-around by the labour office and the social welfare department, KISA said.
“What seems to have led the unfortunate refugee to suicide was the heartlessness to which Cypriot authorities responded to his desperate call for help, but also his intense worry for his life and his family’s fate,” KISA said.
Asylum seekers do not have access to the labour market for the first six months of their stay in Cyprus, but are instead entitled to benefits, according to KISA’s information guide to asylum seekers. After six months in the country, they are allowed to work in farming and agriculture.
But KISA said some people have to wait for months to receive benefits payments because of Parliament’s “racist decision” to examine the list of refugees receiving benefits, including those whose asylum applications have been accepted.
The migrant support group said Mohammed’s suicide was indicative of the situation for refugees and asylum seekers in Cyprus, especially the Syrians who are often forced to flee their country and “are the most vulnerable of all social groups in (Cyprus)”.
The state is making it increasingly hard for people to obtain asylum in Cyprus, KISA said, claiming that the authorities try in various ways, not all of them legal, to prevent assigning people with asylum status.
People such as Mohammed become isolated, humiliated, and desperate, KISA said.
Many are eventually forced to leave to seek protection in other countries in Europe, KISA said.
KISA said they understood the financial and social situation in Cyprus, but said that democracy and human rights was in danger from racism and discrimination splitting groups into two: Cypriots and all others.
The government has been looking into switching from giving financial help to handing out goods to asylum seekers. From spending €23.5 billion in 2010, the state spent €10 million in 2011 for asylum seekers and people protected for political or humanitarian reasons
Asylum applications have been dropping steadily over the years. Between 2002 and 2012, some 25,500 people have had their asylum applications rejected in Cyprus and there are currently about 1,300 people with pending asylum appeals before the reviewing authority, according to the UN refugee agency, UNCHR. Cyprus’ university of technology, TEPAK, and Enoros Consulting have launched a psychological and social support programme for asylum seekers and those entitled to humanitarian protection. The project is funded by the government and the European Commission’s refugee fund. For more information call during the week, between 8am and 5pm at the following numbers: Nicosia, 99-299497; Limassol and Paphos, 25-002300; Larnaca and Famagusta, 99-119235.