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Dr. G. Papadakis in “P” on Refugee/Immigration: From I Do Not Forget… To Forget – Who Exploits Who

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Last Tuesday, a three-year-old girl was spotted in the early hours of the morning by United Nations men alone near the dead zone in Athienou. His twin brother was found together with an informal immigrant, at the Center for Temporary Accommodation of Immigrants “Pournara”. The family – of Asian descent – tried to spend the night in the occupied territories in the free areas, but failed. Groups of refugees and informal migrants continue to come to Cyprus either for a better future or for mainland Europe. Last week, we also learned that foreign food distributors had been violently attacked by a group of minors in Nicosia, who at first glance seemed to be motivated by racist and xenophobic motives, according to Administration Commissioner Maria Stylianou Lottidi ( of the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Agency and as a National Authority for Human Rights).

Movement of people

In an interview with “P”, the professor at the Department of Social and Political Affairs of the University of Cyprus, Giannis Papadakis, explains three concepts concerning the movement of people from war/poor areas to more peaceful/rich places, because -as he says- often are used indiscriminately, sometimes perhaps deliberately, in the wrong way. “An immigrant is one who chooses to leave his country for a better future. A refugee who is forced to leave it mainly due to wars, ecological disasters, politics or other persecutions. “An asylum seeker is a person who seeks recognition as a refugee, a regime that is protected by international treaties from which the Republic of Cyprus is committed,” he said. Dr. Papadakis is a social anthropologist with research interests, including immigration, nationalism, ethnic strife, and social memory.


< b> Why does Cyprus not like refugees and immigrants from other countries?

The discussions in Cyprus do not differ much from those in other western countries. According to the relevant academic literature on the wider international experience, the distance between the reality of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees, on the one hand, and the allegations of & # 8217; those in public speech, on the other hand, are unfortunately huge most of the time. In other words, in many societies, as in Cyprus, distortion and ignorance prevail. Also these issues are often instrumentalized for political reasons, primarily, though not only, by the Far Right and the Right. Due to this instrumentation, the distortions intensify. In Cyprus, however, there are two peculiarities. Firstly, the way these issues are related to the Cyprus issue and, secondly, the disconnection between the “Cypriot” refugee and the other refugees.

That is?

< p>I will give an example to be more understandable. The statement of the competent Minister, the Minister of Interior, on February 24, 2020, where he claimed that “there is this backdoor on the dividing line from which Turkey, clearly and voluntarily, promotes a very large number of people in the free zones” is typical. As we know, according to tradition, the “Turks” entered from Kerkoporta, who then carried out massacres and violence. Something similar will happen to us, that is, according to what the minister said. Official state discourse operates in a general and indiscriminate manner and may push for violence, legitimizing as “defense” violent reactions to the “Turkish threat”. In my opinion, this is a violation of legislation 134 (I)/2011 on the fight against racism, since “… incites violence or hatred against a group of persons…”. The second peculiarity concerns our refugee experience. While “I do not forget” is the dominant slogan as a reminder of our refugee, when it comes to other refugees we “forget” that we were once in a similar position and sought international help.

Threat 8230; vulnerable

Do you mean that this official reason has a negative effect on citizens?

It is clear that formal arguments are often reproduced by citizens. Let me give another typical example. Remember what was said during a protest in Aglantzia on July 22, 2020 & # 8211; It was a pre-election period for the position of mayor Aglantzias, due to the fact that the then mayor was appointed Minister of Defense. I quote it literally: “We will not allow the forest of Athalassa to be endangered even slightly… we will not allow anyone to be consumed by the fire… We will not allow any spy to come and stay here in our area. “Let us not forget that most of them come from the occupied territories and are sent by Turkey.” And who are the alleged “arsonists” and “spies”? The most vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers. The unaccompanied children, the disabled, the victims of war violence, the pregnant women, that is, those who would be housed in the protection center that would be created in Aglantzia. While we are talking about the most vulnerable, that is, the most threatened, with the rhetorical legitimation from above, they are presented, in a reversal of logic, as the greatest threat.

Ignorance & # 8211; true

The numbers released for & # 8217; are these people real?

A common denominator in most western countries is the wide gap between the actual numbers of immigrants and citizens' subjective perceptions of how many live in their country. Eurobarometer data (Special Eurobarometer 469) for 2017 present Europeans' perceptions of third country nationals & # 8211; outside the European Union. The following emerges. First, European citizens believe that they do not know enough about immigration issues in their country with Cypriots in the highest positions of ignorance. Secondly, European citizens greatly exaggerate the number of informal (“illegal”) immigrants with Cypriots in the highest positions of overestimation. Thirdly, European citizens exaggerate the total number of migrants.

What exactly are the Cypriots' perceptions of the issue of refugees/informal migrants/asylum seekers?

< p>According to the previous research, Cypriots are in the highest positions of misconceptions and believe that in Cyprus live about three (3) times more immigrants than in reality, ie 19% instead of 7% of the population. Also typical in Cyprus is the case where the Committee on Journalistic Ethics (EJN) ruled that the number of 43,000 asylum seekers screened by the media, the newspaper Alithia on 27/1/2020, on the basis of statements by the Minister of Interior was false with the aim of deception. The actual size according to the Committee on Journalistic Ethics (ECJ) was not 43,000 but 17,121 asylum seekers, about three (3) times less. The ECJ also condemned the newspaper's phrase “We can no longer stand them (…)” as xenophobic, as well as descriptions such as “Third Attila” as hate speech.

Economic aspect

In addition, a lot is said and written about the financial aspect of the issue, such as receiving bonuses of thousands of euros, etc. What is the reality?

The most recent study of the European Commission (European Commission Working Papers in Economic and Finance, 2017/4) argues that the integration of refugees does indeed burden the state budgets. But, he emphasizes, in the medium and long term the impact is positive, adding from 0.2 to 1.4% to the annual Gross Domestic Product but depending on the integration policies. The more substantial integration policies, the greater the contribution to GDP. The above data also apply in the case of Cyprus. However, the authors explain, there seems to be no other way than to admit immigrants to tackle the growing problem of an aging population, which if left unaddressed will have disastrous economic consequences.

In terms of the financial part, what do these people add and what do they take away from Cyprus?

Despite the occasional articles in the media about immigrants who exploit the Republic of Cyprus (KD) economically or are an economic burden, there are no recent in-depth studies on whether immigrants contribute positively or negatively to the KD economy. For the period 1995-2004, however, the study of the Economic Research Unit of the University of Cyprus (10-5/2005) documents that 54.2% of the economic growth in KD was due to the contribution of immigrants. In fact, “the largest contribution to the rate of change of the total gross value added in 2004 compared to 1995 had from all the factors of employment, the employment of foreign workers”, while if the number of informal migrants was taken into account of foreign workers [& # 8230;] in the rate of change of the product of the Cypriot economy is expected to be higher “. But what serious recent studies are about is that, contrary to popular belief, it is not the immigrants who exploit the locals but the opposite. For example, the December 2020 report by the Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights in collaboration with Dr. Nasia Hadjigeorgiou of UCLan University, concludes: “Domestic workers in Cyprus work an average of 58 hours per week, 40% more than 42 hours provided by the employment contract, while one (1) in five (5) states that he works more than 70 hours per week. After all, 32% are not always paid or are not always paid the salary agreed upon. “

They have no choice & # 8230;

The Cypriot Interior Minister placed barbed wire near the dead zone to prevent these people from crossing the occupied territories into the free zones. In some other countries, walls are being erected. Are these measures effective?

According to the relevant academic literature, no matter how inhumane a state behaves, trying to create miserable reception conditions, either by barbed wire or by “deportations” in the middle of the sea or by incarceration in unacceptable “reception centers”, the arrivals of refugees will continue. Because simply these people, coming mainly from war zones, areas of extreme poverty or where there is a violation of human rights, have no other choice. However, both the purely moral and the humanitarian aspect, as we know from our own refugee, are in themselves essential.

Asked about “who is the victim in the Refugee/Immigration”, Dr. Giannis Papadakis points out that the dominant discourse on the general issues related to immigration in Cyprus is the reversal of both logic and facts. “Those who are victims of economic exploitation are presented as exploiting our state financially,” he added. “Those who contribute to our economic development are presented as an economic burden. “Immigrants who, as the relevant research shows, show increased entrepreneurship compared to the locals, are excluded from contributing as much as they could”, adds the professor.

The project “Immigrants” created by children from the Lyceum of Apostolos Loukas Kolossiou, in collaboration with their teacher, Popi Nikolaou (European Citizen Award (2016) , Global Teacher Award 2019).

Regarding crime?

Let us not forget that the victims of the most brutal serial killer in Cyprus were immigrants. At the same time, the Council of Ministers has approved by name and individually the granting of citizenship to some of the biggest criminals. The Republic of Cyprus is constantly called to account for the inhumane and international conventions “deportations” of refugees, for which last year the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights – . For the first time, we are also called to account for & # 8217; and in the reports of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Integrated integration

How do you respond to the position that our small island can not stand other refugees/immigrants?

The difficulties of the Republic of Cyprus in managing this issue today are understandable. This, however, does not justify violations of international conventions and human rights. We must also think about tomorrow and the longer term. Unless a comprehensive policy of accepting and integrating refugees and immigrants is launched now, today's adults are putting another problem on young people, who will find themselves without pensions. Due to the aging of the population, for western societies there is no other way to deal with this problem, than the integrated integration of immigrants, according to studies. As with the environmental crisis, the broken ones will be paid for again by the younger ones and the long-term data is just as relentless.

Role of NGOs

What role could NGOs play in making a positive contribution to the issues we discuss?

Often NGOs dealing with these issues are presented as approximately “Traitors”, who serve Turkish interests, if they try to support these groups, which the state – and I would say prevailing – rhetoric presents as a “weapon” of Turkey against us. But if the official state constantly admits that it can not manage these issues, it could very well draw on the help, support and expertise of NGOs and the wider civil society, instead of fighting them. In closing, I would like to point out that I have drawn evidence and arguments for this interview, and from various texts I wrote in collaboration with the Racism Watch team, which are on its Facebook page, for anyone interested in more detailed and substantiated analyzes./p>

Source: politis.com.cy

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