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.
“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.”
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: