Saturday, January 01, 2000
Immigration policy is in for an overhaul (archive article - Tuesday, July 8, 2008)
ALTHOUGH the Minister of Interior Neoklis Sylikiotis has repeatedly declared his sincere concern for the plight of asylum seekers and immigrant workers, state authorities remain committed to the antiquated practices of the past in their dealings with non-EU foreign nationals. The policy priority is to make it as difficult as possible for these foreigners to stay on the island, with immigration officers often abusing their powers in order to achieve this goal.This why the government has been dragging its feet over the EU law which makes members states give residence permits to foreigners who have been legally in the country for more than five years. It is also the reason why no welfare support is offered to foreigners, as a report we published last Friday illustrated. A 30-year-old foreign woman, who was the victim of domestic violence, was refused help by the state services on the grounds that the law does envisage help being given to non-Cypriots. The woman, who has a 14-month-old child that was born in Cyprus was told that she could not go to a shelter for victims of domestic violence because she was in Cyprus illegally. She was considered an ‘illegal immigrant’ because her husband, who was allegedly using violence against her, had refused to sign the relevant documents for renewing her residence permit, which expired in 2006. Her only option was to stay at the home she shared with her violent husband, regardless of the risk for herself and her child. It is an absurd situation which does not reflect well on our society, even though the authorities could claim that they are following the provisions of the law. But what sort of law is it that puts a woman at the mercy of her husband and makes her rely exclusively on him for her residence permit? Does the law treat foreign males, married to EU nationals, in the same way? Perhaps the law was aimed at marriages of convenience, but that does not make its illiberal and discriminatory provisions any more acceptable.We may have mentioned just one case that exposed the deficiencies of the existing law, but it is indicative of the mess that is Cyprus’ immigration policy and law. There is a need for a general overhaul of the policy not only to bring it in line with EU guidelines but also with modern reality and the economy’s needs. Gone are the days when the island boasted a small self-sufficient economy and the law was geared towards preventing foreign nationals from settling here. Now there is a big need for foreign workers, who cannot be treated as third class citizens, with no rights.Sylikiotis recognises the need for changing this policy, but it appears that the Immigration Department is still operating in the old way, that it has been accustomed to for years. Whether the minister will be able to modernise the system so that cases such as the one mentioned above are avoided, remains to be seen.
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008
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