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Statement following yesterday’s terror attacks in Brussels from Caritas Europa President

In the aftermath of yesterday’s terror attacks in Brussels, Caritas Europa mourns the unnecessary loss of lives and prays for the prompt recovery of the injured as well as of the families and friends who lost a beloved one.

Caritas Europa opposes the blind hatred of a few lost and confused people with a message of love, solidarity, mercy and peace. The acts of yesterday, which litter the beauty of faith, will not restrain us from continuing to work towards our vision of a fair, open and inclusive society that cares for the dignity of everyone. A society that fosters what we all have in common and that respects and protects the singularities that make us different and unique.

The violence we are facing is the same that pushes millions of people to escape their countries and desperately attempt to reach our shores by any means. Building walls, closing borders and mass-deporting people in need of safety are just a few of the shameful and ineffective reactions that Europe has been able to present until now. These false solutions will not solve anything. On the contrary, they might exacerbate the sentiment of hatred towards Europe and what it represents.

Caritas Europa encourages decision-makers to protect the life, the dignity and the rights of all those who are trying to arrive to Europe in order to escape terror and misery in their homelands.

Msgr. Luc van Looy President of Caritas Europa

Stories of refugee women in honouring the International Women day!

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It’s time to hear the stories of refugee women when shaping asylum and integration policies!

 

“I left Eritrea together with 64 men, women and children, most of whom were relatives, in December 2012. Our journey took more than 11 months, we walked through 5 countries. I was kidnapped three times by desert gunman and gang raped. I narrowly survived the sinking of a smugglers’ flimsy fishing boat, swimming through waters clogged with the bodies of more than 350 drowned passengers to reach shore. Only 3 of us survived the journey and finally reached Sweden.”

M., refugee from Eritrea

Source: Caritas Sweden

 

The process of uprooting and resettling in a different country encompasses a variety of practical and emotional issues. On International Women’s Day, the particular plight of migrant and refugee women deserves special attention. It’s important for policy makers to hear the stories migrant and refugee women have to tell.

Historically, women have assumed a leading role when deciding to migrate, whether in response to forced or voluntary migration; whether acting autonomously, as the main providers for their families, or jointly with their partners and children. Yet, the number of women and girls on the move toward Europe has increased dramatically in the last years. According to UNHCR sources, since the beginning of 2016, women and children account for 55% of those reaching Greece to seek asylum in the EU.

Often referred to as the “feminisation of migration”, this population is as large as it is diverse. Some have been forced to leave their homes because of brutality, persecution, and/or poverty; some are fleeing for their lives in search of asylum; some are reuniting with family members; some are seeking economic opportunities due to an overall deterioration in economic and social resources, some are forced into situations of overwhelming insecurity. Many encounter difficulties, particularly as they feel pressure to provide financially for their children; and some have become victims of human trafficking, prostitution, or other forms of exploitation.

Despite their courage to move and to hope for a better situation for themselves and their families, these women and girls are often confronted with multiple challenges en route to Europe, in places of refuge, as well as upon arrival, as they adapt to the integration demands made of them. The diverse ways in which they are received in Europe affects the opportunities they have and, by extension, how they adapt and integrate into the receiving society where they live.

While integration and asylum policies remain a national-level responsibility for individual EU countries, they have become increasingly more important at the supranational level, where efforts to respond to the so-called migration and refugee “crisis” are being prioritized. In this regard, it is imperative that EU Member States start taking into account the specific situation of women and girls in all their policies, particularly in migration, asylum and integration policies, since these policies – including social and labour market policies – clearly affect their chances for success and self-sufficiency.

To ensure, for instance, that women and girls enjoy equal access to asylum, EU Member States need to ensure that female interpreters and interviewers are available for female asylum seekers. Responsible staff should be trained to understand the specific situation of asylum seeking women and girls. Survivors of traumatic events, such as war and violence often feel a loss of safety, sometimes leading to lasting mental traumas. This is also known to influence a refugee woman’s sense of ease in the receiving society, impacting feelings of anxiety of the unknown, unfamiliarity with the receiving society language, surroundings, institutions, resources. Women and girls often suffer from specific violence, such as sexual violence, female genital mutilation or domestic violence, which can be more difficult to prove than other forms of violence when applying for asylum in Europe. Privacy of asylum interviews should be guaranteed to ensure that women can explain their story completely. For this, child care facilities in reception centres are needed to enable women to conduct the asylum interview without being accompanied by their children. Women and girls must be informed about their right, and in particular about the possibility to apply for asylum on their own.

EU Member States must also ensure that women and girls seeking asylum benefit from safe reception conditions. Families should also be enabled to stay together. Otherwise, women and men should be housed separately, and women should have access to private bathing and sanitation facilities. This would contribute to protecting women and girls from violence, including sexual violence, in reception centres.

Despite existing societal structures and stereotypes that women are more vulnerable than men, many women, however, show the opposite is true. They are able to position themselves anew in receiving society contexts, especially when propelled into the workforce. For this, the recognition of their qualifications and skills, including soft skills and informal education is needed. Women and girls must likewise have access to education, language courses and healthcare, in particular psychosocial support when relevant. Adequate and safe housing is also one of the first means by which women and girls can achieve successful integration. Ambitious and effective anti-discrimination policies sensitive to existing inequalities between men and women, between the rich and poor, and across age generations are also greatly needed.

And lastly, in order to protect women and girls from trafficking, survival sex, forced marriage, and other forms of violence, Member States and the European Union should ratify and implement the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Just as importantly, EU institutions should develop safe and legal routes to Europe, taking into account the specific situation of women and girls when doing so.

 

 

Shannon Pfohman, Head of Policy and Advocacy Caritas Europa

Caritas Cares 2015 National Reports- Cyprus

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Caritas Cares 2015 National Reports
This series of reports describes the main poverty and social inclusion-related challenges European Union Member States are facing today. The reports provide recommendations for policy-makers that are based on an analysis of Caritas Europa member organisations’ experiences on the ground.

Please follow the lionk in order to be able to read Caritas Cares Cyprus report for 2015: http://www.caritas.eu/about-caritas-europa/publications.

Testimony on the Migrant crisis in Cyprus.

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TMigrant crisis in Cyprushe Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre

In Cyprus, migrants are often at the bottom of the government’s list of priorities, suffering great hardship, social exclusion and are well below the poverty line. However, one in five of the population in Cyprus is a migrant. Out  of them most of the asylum seekers are coming from African and Arab countries, Syria in particular. Cyprus is facing particularly difficult times due to the economic crisis and due to the instability of neighbouring countries.

The Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre (CCyMC) helps these people throughout the island by providing legal, social and administrative advice to migrants and advocacy support to help them secure their basic needs. Migrants for CCyMC include domestic & agricultural workers, asylum seekers, refugees, victims of trafficking, college students, spouses of Cypriot and EU nationals and impoverished Europeans.

Testimonies
All names are fictional

D from the Middle East

“I am D from the Middle East. I came to Cyprus 25 years ago. I escaped from my country because of religious persecution. After obtaining refugee status in Cyprus, I worked running a restaurant and eventually had a construction building company.

However, when the crisis hit Cyprus in 2012, I suffered financial losses and lost my business. I moved to another EU country looking for a job. The problem was that I didn’t have a Cypriot passport. The travel document – usually the only ID document granted to recognised refugees in Cyprus – entitles me to visit an EU country but not to work there. After 3 months I was sent back to Cyprus.

I suffered a stroke and a mental breakdown which left me half paralysed and unable to work. When discharged from the hospital, I had nowhere to go and was placed in an old people’s home. After a month there, I was given 400 euros and forced to leave. I found myself homeless and in a poor medical state. I found help at the Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre shelter in Nicosia and 5 months later I was able to move out into my own accommodation. After several requests to the government, I was eventually given welfare benefits.”

A from Syria

“My name is A and I am a Syrian Christian from Aleppo, aged 24. I have a degree in IT and can speak English. As the eldest of my family, I would be required to enrol in the Army after I graduated. But in February 2015, my family decided that due to the continued attacks on Christian areas of Syria, and in order to avoid my imminent recruitment by the army, I should leave Aleppo as soon as possible and go to Cyprus. The plan was that the rest of my family – my parents and 3 young brothers – would wait for my advice as to whether they should follow me to Cyprus or flee to another country.

After paying € 1,800 to the smugglers, I left Syria and travelled to Lebanon by bus; after that to Turkey by ship, with very bad weather; from Turkey, I somehow managed to arrive to northern Cyprus. I paid another €600 for boat and bus tickets and other expenses on the route. I walked to the border with southern Cyprus and declared myself as an asylum seeker to the Republic of Cyprus.

I had relatives in Limassol and made my way to them. I also got to know about the Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre in Limassol and offered my services to them as a volunteer and translator. They received me as a brother.

I have never received any welfare nor housing benefits from the Government of Cyprus. In any case, my relatives and the Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre have fully supported me. I have now been granted recognised refugee status from the Government of Cyprus, so I am free to seek employment, but due to the economic crisis there are no jobs in Cyprus; especially not for migrants. I am unable to travel to other European countries and seek employment there, because any travel document I can obtain (as I cannot be a Cypriot national for at least 7 years residency) will be valid for 3 months only.

Three months ago the home of my family was bombed. I would like my family to join me here but we don’t have the money to pay the smugglers. The cost payable to smugglers to get to other European countries is too high. Besides, I am not sure how my family will be able to look after themselves financially in Cyprus, without jobs or welfare.”

Caritas response

The parishes working with migrants have helped feed, house, clothe, provide transport, and arrange medical care for them. Since the last 6 months of 2014 those parishes have been providing groceries for about 200 migrant families (600 persons) monthly.

The CCyMC has established an itinerant migrant legal/administrative/social advice service providing services to migrants in all the parishes on a regular basis. During 2014 throughout Cyprus, the Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre has assisted in more than 150 new cases of migrants with legal/social/administrative and status problems, in addition to about 100 cases continuing from the previous year.

Migrant crisis in Cyprus- Testimonies and how Caritas Cyprus Migrant Center reacts to this severe crisis. An article prepared by Caritas Europa.

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The Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre is an autonomous sector of Caritas Cyprus and is made up of representatives from the parishes working with migrants of Limassol, Nicosia, Larnaca and Paphos under its Head Fr Jerzy Kraj and its Coordinator Dolores R Savvides. The Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre is island-wide and is separate from the individual Caritas parishes.

The centre provides throughout the island legal, social and administrative advice to migrants and advocacy support to help them secure their basic needs. Migrants for CCyMC include domestic & agricultural workers, asylum seekers, refugees, victims of trafficking, college students, spouses of Cypriot and EU nationals and impoverished Europeans.

One in five of the population in Cyprus is a migrant with asylum seekers coming mostly from African and Arab countries, Syria in particular. Cyprus is facing particularly difficult times due to the division of the island with the Turkish Cypriots in the north, to the economic crisis and due to the instability of neighbouring countries. As a result, migrants are often at the bottom of the government’s list of priorities, suffering great hardship, social exclusion and are well below the poverty line.

e

Testimonies

“My name is A and I am a Syrian Christian from Aleppo, aged 24. I have a degree in IT and can speak English. As the eldest of my family, I would be required to enrol in the Army after I graduated. But in February 2015, my family decided that due to the continued attacks on Christian areas of Syria, and in order to avoid my imminent recruitment by the army, I should leave Aleppo as soon as possible and go to Cyprus. The plan was that the rest of my family – my parents and 3 young brothers – would wait for my advice as to whether they should follow me to Cyprus or flee to another country.

After paying € 1,800 to the smugglers, I left Syria and travelled to Lebanon by bus; after that to Turkey by ship, with very bad weather; from Turkey, I somehow managed to arrive to northern Cyprus. I paid another €600 for boat and bus tickets and other expenses on the route. I walked to the border with southern Cyprus and declared myself as an asylum seeker to the Republic of Cyprus.

I had relatives in Limassol and made my way to them. I also got to know about the Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre in Limassol and offered my services to them as a volunteer and translator. They received me as a brother.

I have never received any welfare nor housing benefits from the Government of Cyprus. In any case, my relatives and the Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre have fully supported me. I have now been granted recognised refugee status from the Government of Cyprus, so I am free to seek employment, but due to the economic crisis there are no jobs in Cyprus; especially not for migrants. I am unable to travel to other European countries and seek employment there, because any travel document I can obtain (as I cannot be a Cypriot national for at least 7 years residency) will be valid for 3 months only.

Three months ago the home of my family was bombed. I would like my family to join me here but we don’t have the money to pay the smugglers. The cost payable to smugglers to get to other European countries will be about € 5,000 per person. Besides, I am not sure how my family will be able to look after themselves financially in Cyprus, without jobs or welfare.”

Caritas response

The parishes working with migrants have helped feed, house, clothe, provide transport, and arrange medical care for them. Since the last 6 months of 2014 those parishes have been providing groceries for about 200 migrant families (600 persons) monthly.

The CCyMC has established an itinerant migrant legal/administrative/social advice service providing services to migrants in all the parishes on a regular basis. During 2014 throughout Cyprus, the Caritas Cyprus Migrant Centre has assisted in more than 150 new cases of migrants with legal/social/administrative and status problems, in addition to about 100 cases continuing from the previous year.

Follow the link below to find and read the article at Caritas Europa website:

http://www.caritas.eu/news/migrant-crisis-in-cyprus