Below, we carry the text of a leaflet distributed by members of Youth Against Nationalism, and CWI members, in Cyprus, followed by an appeal for solidarity and a model protest letter.
Give political asylum for the 100 Kurds and all political refugees in Cyprus now!
From 5 – 24 May, Cypriot society was shocked by an uprising of asylum seekers, particularly Kurdish refugees, who for 11 days and nights occupied Eleftheria Square, living in tents, and then went on to occupy the Red Cross headquarters for 5 more days and nights. The uprising included marches, some of which reached 1,000 strong. Four of the Kurds climbed onto the roof of a 7 floor building, threatening to jump unless their rights were restored. Ten also went on hunger strike, risking their lives.
This magnificent struggle – the determination of the protesters, the mobilisation of supporting Cypriot organisations and activists and, finally, international condemnation of the authorities- forced the government to grant to the protesters all the legal rights connected to their urgent needs. The government stopped violating Cypriot and European law, according to which asylum seekers have to be given either the right to work or the access to welfare benefit, humane living and housing conditions, and medical care.
Whereas the government fulfilled its legal obligations regarding the 100 Kurds, it continues to violate the rights of all the other asylum seekers. In an attempt to hide his responsibilities and create confusion, the Minister of the Interior (and a member of AKEL, the so-called ‘communist’ party of Cyprus) declared that among the “economic migrants” a mere 1% are “real” asylum seekers entitled to asylum. Even if this was true, and it is not, in no way does it justify the violation of asylum seekers’ rights, for which his Ministry and the policy of his government, are responsible.
This policy is not only against the law (Cypriot and EU) in relation to asylum seekers, but is also criminal, as it leads to arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and deportations of political refugees, in many cases to countries where life imprisonment, torture and/or death await them. Tens and hundreds of asylum seekers are illegally detained in police cells, some of them for periods up to 15 months, without any prospects for their future.
This policy will not stop unless massive pressure is exerted on the government!
The government refuses to grant political asylum, even in cases which stand out for their seriousness. The case of the Kurds from Syria is indeed serious. The Kurds are among the most persecuted people world-wide. They have been, at all times, prevented from creating their own state. They live in countries such as Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, where persecution, dictatorship and armed conflicts reign. The Kurds who manage to flee these areas are political refugees in every sense of the word! The government of Cyprus has to grant them asylum immediately!! But it doesn’t do it. It does something different instead; it remembers the Kurds every time it wants to make accusations against the Turkish regime. But when the Kurds come to Cyprus seeking protection, it deals with them in a racist manner, as if they are enemies. It forces them to live in squalor, insecurity, and despair.
The Cypriot people know very well from their own history what war and displacement mean. For this reason, they are not indifferent to the tragedy of the Kurds. And they cannot be indifferent to the tragedy that any people experience as a result of dictatorships, wars, ethnic cleansing, persecution and poverty – be it in Bangladesh, Congo, Ghana, Iraq, Iran or Afghanistan etc.
The political refugees in Cyprus – Kurds and others – seek asylum so that they are able at last to feel free: to feel like human beings. To be able to travel freely wherever they wish, so that they can continue their struggle against dictatorship, wars and persecution in their countries of origin, and fight for their rights.
The granting of asylum will stop employers paying half-wages, without social security, something which, in itself, attacks the rights of Cypriot workers since it pushes wages down.
The Cypriot people, the Cypriot workers and youth have, therefore, every reason to support the asylum seekers. We demand:
- Stop police harassment, illegal arrests and deportations!
- Give asylum seekers all their legal rights!
- Grant asylum to all political refugees!
- Grant asylum now to the 100 Kurdish refugees whose cases are being examined by the authorities (starting Monday, 5/6/06)!
- Free, immediately, Serife Belal, mother of two children, 4 and 6 years respectively, who is kept in prison and separated from her children!
Protest letters or e-mail can be sent to:
Ministry of the Interior: firstname.lastname@example.org
Office of the President of Parliament: email@example.com
Office of the Ombudsman: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Justice and Public Order: email@example.com
Send copies to:
Youth against Nationalism: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter of protest to the Cypriot government
Please send/adapt the following model resolution or one that you will write, signed by you, or your union/ organization/ other individuals, to the addresses above.
Grant asylum to the 100 Kurdish and all political refugees in Cyprus!
Set Serife Belal free!
We are aware of the crisis in Cyprus in relation to political refugees, particularly Kurds, seeking asylum from the Cypriot authorities. We were informed of their determined struggle, their occupation of Eleftheria Square for 11 days, occupation of the Red Cross headquarters for another 5, and their daily rallies and demonstrations, from the 8 – 24 May.
We ask the Cypriot government to stop all illegal practices regarding the rights of asylum seekers who come to the island seeking protection. We demand that the final agreement, reached between the Kurdish refugees and the Cypriot government is honoured by the latter. We have been informed that the government is not providing the refugees with the welfare benefit that they were promised within one week of the stoppage of the occupation of the Red Cross Headquarters.
We demand asylum be granted to all political refugees. This, in particular, applies to the 100 asylum seekers of Kurdish origin, men and women with their children and babies, who occupied Eleftheria Square and the Red Cross, and whose cases are being examined by the Cypriot authorities in the next days and weeks.
We demand that, without delay, Serife Belal (26 years), mother of two – Shira and Hafishe, who are 4 and 6 years respectively – is freed from jail and allowed to re-unite with her children.
If you are interested in more information on the campaign by Kurdish asylum seekers see Xekinima, the CWI in Greece