WHY INFORMATION AND AWARENESS? (I’M AWARE– I GET INVOLVED)
We aim at enhancing public knowledge and information. Citizens need to have a deeper understanding of the current refugee and migration phenomena, the position and role of Cyprus, as an EU Member State and as a host society, without discrimination. Through the public information and the interactive dialogue with the new generation, we fight against prejudice, stereotypes, xenophobia and racism. We promote mutual respect, the perception of diversity and the presence of refugees and immigrants as a wealth for our society with a contribution to the economic and social development.
LET’S TALK ABOUT REFUGEES
The current refugee crisis and despair is unprecedented. Today, more than 65 million people fled their homes and live displaced because of ongoing wars and persecution.
Of these people, 21 million seek asylum in another country. Half of them are minors. Every day 34,000 individuals are forced to abandon their homes to save their own as well as family’s lives.
The greatest humanitarian tragedy since the Second World War takes place in our neighborhood, the Middle East, due to the war in Syria and the perennial conflict in the region.
The European Union is an asylum space. It accommodates 6% of refugees worldwide.
Cyprus has offered asylum in about 7,000 refugees and examines the corresponding request for international protection of approximately 2,250 people.
LET’S TALK ABOUT IMMIGRANTS
Immigration accompanies the evolution of mankind for centuries. People move in search of work, prosperity and a better life.
Currently, immigrants who chose to live elsewhere than their home country amount to 244 million and represent 3.3% of the total world population.
Modern transport facilities and technological development intensified immigration and mixing of individuals. In many developed countries the societies are multicultural.
Europe is the region that historically welcomed more immigrants than any other country. They account for 4% of the total population.
Cyprus has been welcoming immigrants from the early 90s. Immigration to Cyprus is the result of economic development and modern social organization.
Today, immigrants in Cyprus accumulate to approximately 63,200 people, including 7,000 among these individuals that are beneficiaries of international protection. They are granted a residence permit and have the right to work.
Most of them, around 20,000, are employed in jobs that Cypriots do not want to do. They mainly come from poor countries like India, Sri Lanka and Nepal. They immigrate for livelihood, filling labor shortages or performing manual tasks.
Another smaller percentage of immigrants is economically prosperous and chooses Cyprus for work and business. They mainly live in developing and tourist cities. Finally, others are visitors or students.
WE, THE EUROPEAN UNION
Immigration in Europe is a phenomenon dating back to the past. To exploit the opportunities and confront the challenges posed by this kind of international mobility, the European Union is seeking a common approach of its Member States on the immigration issue.
At the same time, EU is an area of asylum and solidarity. It has set up a Common European Asylum System to protect those seeking shelter in Europe because they are being persecuted or face the risk of suffering serious harm in their country of origin.
The collective management of migratory flows (immigrants and refugees) is an opportunity and at the same time a dual challenge for Europe.
Opportunity, because the contribution of the immigrants to the demographic recovery and economic dynamism of Europe is important. By 2060, the working population of Europe is expected to decline by 50 million, even if migratory flows remain at their current levels. We, therefore, need more than ever a Europe open to the workforce, skills and qualifications of migrants lawfully entering its territory.
A dual challenge, because Europe must facilitate the integration of legal immigrants, as it is an important factor in our cultural wealth but also a prerequisite for a successful legal immigration. Europe must also maintain a steady attitude towards irregular immigration that devalues the policy of legal immigration, jeopardizes social cohesion and fosters xenophobia. In the fight against illegal immigration, the respect of the dignity of those who leave their place of origin in desperation because of poverty or persecution must be maintained.
Facing the breadth and complexity of immigration, Europe has no choice. It must strengthen the common immigration policy by developing a combined management of migratory flows both between Member States and with third countries.
This common immigration policy must be governed by two basic requirements: Solidarity and respect for the individual.
CYPRUS, AN OPEN SOCIETY
The life of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants in Cyprus is determined by laws and regulations of the Cyprus State, EU and international conventions that promote their rights. They set a framework of mutual obligations and rights in the receiving society. Fundamental guidelines are the mutual respect, the protection of human rights, the preservation of personal dignity and the fight against discrimination and xenophobia.
Respect, acceptance and active participation require the knowledge and the sincere desire of the Cypriot receiving society in every moment of daily life: at work, services, school, hospital, public places of entertainment.
It is in the interest of Cypriot society not to build separation walls, phobic stereotypes and perceptions. The smooth integration of refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants creates conditions for economic growth and social cohesion.