In Cyprus 12 thousand Syrians - The list of the top 10 countries of origin of new applicants

The top ten countries of origin of new asylum seekers in Cyprus in the period January - December 2020

asylum seekers

According to the UNHCR, more than 12 thousand Syrians have sought protection in Cyprus since 2011 and 8.500 of them have been granted international protection, mainly supplementary protection (96,4%) with the rest having been granted refugee status. It is added that in 2020 7.036 people applied for asylum in the Republic of Cyprus, which is a decrease of 44,7% from the number of asylum applications in 2019 which was 12.724. 

The top ten countries of origin of new asylum seekers in Cyprus between January and December 2020 are Syria, India, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Nepal, Georgia and Egypt. . At the end of 2020, 19.660 asylum applications were pending - 18.995 at the Asylum Service and 665 at the Refugee Review Authority. During 2020, 172 persons were granted refugee status and 1.512 persons with supplementary protection status, with a total of 1.684 positive responses, mainly from the Asylum Service and 41 from the Refugee Review Authority.

The vast majority of Syrian refugees were granted additional protection (1404) while only 21 were granted refugee status. The majority of asylum applications rejected in 2020 are for asylum seekers from Pakistan, Georgia, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Cameroon and Nigeria.

The five main nationalities that received international protection from 2002 to December 2020 are Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Iranians and Somalis. "Of the total number of asylum applications received and promoted since 2002, 20,7% were granted international protection, while in the majority of cases additional protection was granted."

A new life for Lama Swas

In a recent very interesting informative presentation on the occasion of International Women's Day (March 8, 2021), the UNHCR describes the adventurous lives of some of the Syrian refugee women living in Cyprus, noting that women and girls make up about 50% of refugees, internally displaced and stateless peoples worldwide.

We singled out the case of the scientist and mother Lama Swas, 27 years old, who left her war-torn homeland and became a refugee in Cyprus, where she met the Apostle with whom she married. They had their daughter Aurelia and now live in Nicosia. Lama was a biotechnology student at the University of Aleppo in her hometown when the war broke out in Syria and lived for a long time in the horrors of deprivation and everyday fear. When she risked losing her life from a sniper bullet, she decided that her only choice was to leave and leave everything behind - her family, her studies and her friends. He said that "after two years of continuous bombing, without electricity or water and with the transition to university becoming more difficult and more dangerous every day, he decided to leave."

She first fled to Qatar with her mother and sister to meet her uncle who worked there, in order to complete her studies at a university in the country. However, this was not possible and on the advice of a friend she decided to come to occupied Cyprus, where with the financial help of her family she completed her studies and received a degree in Molecular Biology and Genetics. But without the possibility of continuing her studies or working there or traveling to another country via a safe and regular route, she decided to move to the free areas and apply for asylum. This was done in October 2017 and for as long as the examination of her application was pending, she was staying at the Kofinou Reception Center.

After a year of residence in the Center and after securing the status of supplementary protection, Lama started in the summer of 2018 a new life in Nicosia. She applied and won a position in a mentoring program for women's empowerment implemented by EY Cyprus, AIPFE Cyprus and the Cyprus Institute of Marketing. Through this program he won a scholarship for the MSc in Digital Marketing program of the Cyprus Institute of Marketing. During the mentoring program he developed the idea of ​​launching a platform on YouTube to talk about genetics, biology and science, aimed primarily at children. "Through this platform I want to talk about biology and genetics because I love these topics and I want to influence young people to study the subject as I was influenced by my teachers. "When I shared this idea with a friend I met at the Reception Center in Kofinou, he put me in touch with Apostolos, a film producer, to help me implement the idea."

Soon after, Lama and the Apostle began to discuss the idea and get to know each other better. This project may not be complete yet, but Lama and Apostolos fell in love, got married and had their daughter Aurelia. Although Cyprus is now her homeland, Lama longs for life before the war, says she misses her family very much, but she does not lose her courage and anticipates that at some point she will be able to meet her parents and siblings. which are now located in other countries. In the meantime, she remains fully engaged in her studies, her dreams, her volunteer work through her participation in the volunteer program of the High Commission and above all by being a loving mother ".

A dynamic mother and volunteer

We also singled out the case of 37-year-old single-parent Rehab Al Habrat from Damascus who has lived in Cyprus for 18 years with her four children, all of whom were born in Cyprus. For the past seven years she has been an active member as a volunteer for the humanitarian non-governmental organization Caritas in Paphos and most recently a volunteer in the UNHCR's "Outreach Volunteer program" offering support and counseling services to asylum seekers and refugees. Rehab and her children have been granted supplemental protection. Inspired by the love and support she received from NGOs and volunteers during her own difficult times, Rehab decided to help others in need. 

She was only 18 years old when she came to Cyprus, after her ex-husband obtained a visa to come to the island to work. "When the war broke out in Syria, I felt guilty because I was living in a safe environment while my family was trapped in the chaos and violence of war," he said. She does not rule out the possibility that she will return when the return is safe, but her four children, all born and raised in Cyprus, consider Cyprus as their homeland.

Rehab and her children have been granted a supplementary protection regime which must be renewed every two years, a fact that causes insecurity and upset especially for her children attending schools in Cyprus and having Greek as their first language. 

Acquiring Cypriot citizenship could restore the feeling of insecurity experienced by the family, but the strict conditions and requirements for granting it, make it impossible. One thing is for sure, Rehab's experiences have made her stronger and more resilient, a person with dreams and ambitions for herself. "I have always wanted to be a lawyer and I hope that one day I will be able to fulfill my dream and become a lawyer specializing in the rights of immigrants and refugees."

Knowledge and skills in asylum

Rema Beshtawy, 29, is a Palestinian from Syria and has been living in Cyprus as an asylum seeker for the past two years. A graduate of English Literature, Rema worked in a kindergarten and tuition center as an English teacher in Latakia, but the war in Syria forced her to seek a safe life in Cyprus. "We lived in a state of security and stability in Syria. My parents had a restaurant. We had a good life. "But with the war no one felt safe." Rema decided to come to Cyprus with her son and her parents. Her brother was already living on the island. "We came by plane to the northern part and then we passed in the free areas. Atif is eight years old and attends a public school. "She quickly learned Greek and today she speaks like the Cypriots," says Rema, and she feels grateful that her son has access to public education in Cyprus. "We are lucky to be entitled to free education and I would like to thank the Ministry of Education for that, as well as the teachers who care for and support my son. "My son feels happy at school and when he is happy, so am I." 

Rema attends Greek language courses and works as a volunteer in a non-profit consulting firm that manages various refugee and immigrant integration programs, such as language and vocational training programs as well as information and awareness programs. "I am given the opportunity through volunteer work to gain knowledge and skills, meet new people and improve my chances of finding a job at a later stage," he says. Volunteering gives her a sense of normalcy and encourages other refugees and asylum seekers to take part in such activities. Rema today feels Cyprus as her homeland and her dream is to be able to buy her own house one day. At the moment, however, her priorities are different: "I am learning the language and maybe this will help me find a job, help my son better with his homework, my parents; and maybe in the future I will be able to 'buy a house'.

Asylum search in 130 countries…

Referring to the global refugee crisis in Syria, Europe and Cyprus, the UNHCR notes that "after ten years of war, Syria remains the largest refugee crisis in the world." He adds that "more than 6,6 million Syrians have been forcibly expelled from their homes since 2011 and another 6,7 million people remain displaced within their own homeland. Syrian refugees have sought asylum in more than 130 countries, but the vast majority - some 5,5 million refugees - live in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt. Turkey alone hosts the largest number of refugees from Syria - 3,6 million. Poverty and unemployment are some of the biggest challenges facing Syrian refugees, challenges that have been maximized during the pandemic COVID-19. More than 70% of Syrian refugees live in poverty, and a World Bank report estimates that another one million Syrian refugees, along with 4,4 million residents of communities hosting them in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, have been driven into poverty immediately. after the pandemic. Millions have lost their jobs and are increasingly unable to meet their basic needs - including access to running water, electricity, food and medicine and paying their rent. The economic downturn also exposes them to multiple risks in terms of protection, such as child labor, gender-based violence, early marriage and other forms of exploitation. Refugees living in refugee camps or in camp-like conditions are also at increased risk of contracting COVID-19. "Crowded conditions in refugee camps make it difficult to implement hygiene measures such as frequent hand washing and social alienation."

According to the UNHCR, European countries host more than 1 million Syrian asylum seekers and refugees, with 70% being hosted by only two countries: Germany (59%) and Sweden (11%). This makes Germany the fifth largest host country in the world, hosting one million in total, with more than half (560 thousand) being Syrians. Austria, Greece, the Netherlands and France host between 2% and 5%, while other countries host less than 2%. At pan-European level, Syrians are consistently granted an international protection regime, with the vast majority either acquiring refugee status or supplementary protection, while the minority benefits from other humanitarian regimes. Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in 2011, more than one million (1.076.360) decisions have been taken by the competent Asylum Authorities in the countries of the European Union for applications for international protection from Syrians.

Some of the major challenges facing Syrian refugees in Europe are restrictive policies on family reunification, the form of legal status that often creates a sense of uncertainty due to regular reviews, and difficulties in finding work, especially from when his pandemic COVID-19 has caused an increase in unemployment in several European countries ".

* In the photo, Lama with her husband Apostolos and their daughter. Photo by Sebastian Rich.

Source: Liberal