Cyprus: Kurdish asylum seeker Saaid Alhachemi freed from prison

Solidarity campaign plays important role in his release

The case of Saaid Alhachemi is another example of how the Cypriot government treat asylum seekers as out-laws and their use of illegal means to force through deportations from Cyprus.

Because of a bureaucratic mistake Saaid was not informed that his appeal for asylum had been rejected. As a result the legal period to appeal against this decision terminated without him knowing. The authorities then quickly proceeded to arrest Saaid to be deported to Syria. Saaid demanded from his prison cell the right to appeal against the decision of the asylum service.

However, law and justice don’t seem to work quite as hard for everybody and for some it don’t work at all: only after 3 days in prison did the authorities accept Saaid’s appeal. However while they accepted his right to appeal they refused to release him from prison. Also the order to deport Saaid was suspended but not cancelled, despite the complete lack of a legal basis for such a decision.

The maltreatment of Saaid didn’t stop there. Not only did he suffer illegal imprisonment for almost 20 days, he was also harassed by policemen and officials to withdraw his appeal so as to give the green light to his own deportation to Syria, where his life would be in certain danger! Saaid’s lawyer rightfully compared these practices and methods to the ways of the mafia!    

First victory against Cypriot government!

The case of Saaid also illustrates that the Cypriot government’s oppression of  asylum seekers can be fought against. The CWI and its Cypriot section have been campaigning in solidarity with the Kurdish refugees and have also taken up the case of Saaid. Also, very recently the Minister of Interior was severely criticised by an NGO in the Greek Cypriot parliament and the case of Saaid was explicitly mentioned to the Minister as an example of illegal imprisonment which was his responsibility.

As a result of this pressure he was forced to state in parliament that he would not allow illegal imprisonments of asylum seekers.  Nonetheless it still took the comrades of the CWI in Cyprus 24 hours of telephoning authorities and officials to force Saaids’ release!

Saaid is now waiting the result of his appeal, which can still be judged negatively, so the threat of deportation is still hanging there. But the important thing is that the first victory of the campaign has been won.

In parliament, the minister was also questioned about the ridiculously short amount of time the asylum services take to "judge" asylum appeals (all the nearly 100 Kurdish asylum requests were dealt with in 10 days). In his respnose the minister stated that he didn’t support the speed with which deportations have been decided as well as that he would grant asylum in all cases where requests haven’t been dealt with correctly.

Although these are still only words, they also show – together with the release of Saaid – that a successful international campaign could be organized to win asylum for the Kurdish refugees. We will remind the minister of his words and say that they must be put into practice unless the Cypriot government wants to face a wave of international protests. 

Experience shows that only on the basis of building up pressure and stepping up the solidarity campaign, the Greek Cypriot government could be forced to put its words into action!

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