According to media reports, the Ministry of Interior has submitted a Bill amending the Legislation for the acquisition of citizenship.
The Ministry has prepared and submitted the bill without any consultation with stakeholders, whether governmental or non-governmental, let alone the immigrants and refugees themselves. We also wonder if the Attorney General of the Republic has carried out a legislative elaboration of the bill and finds it legal and in accordance with the principles governing the rule of law.
According to the provisions of the bill:
The length of stay while seeking international protection, with subsidiary protection and studying is not counted in the time period of authorised stay before the submission of a citizenship application. This practically means that the overwhelming majority of refugees (over 85%) are excluded altogether from acquiring citizenship. Even refugee children born and raised in Cyprus and who consider it as their home country will be excluded from acquiring citizenship based on the above data. The same applies to children of Turkish Cypriot origin who one of the parents is not a Cypriot citizen.
Recognised refugees will also be negatively affected as the time of their stay before they are granted the refugee status will not count towards the time required for citizenship.
People belonging to vulnerable groups of this population (long-term unemployed due to disability or serious health problems, beneficiaries of the social welfare system due to low income, disability or serious health problems) are also excluded from acquiring citizenship.
Also excluded are persons who at any stage of their lives were convicted for a minor offense (e.g. They did not have the money to pay for the out-of-court fine for Corona…) and even those who are suspected of any offense in violation of the presumption of innocence.
Individuals who have entered or resided unauthorisedly in the territory of the Republic at any stage, and therefore all refugees, are also excluded from acquiring citizenship. In addition to the person applying for citizenship, his / her partner will have to prove that he / she is of “good character”, a provision that will also increase women’s dependence on their partners.
Although the government does not offer effective language programmes, Persons are also excluded from acquiring citizenship if they cannot prove adequate knowledge of the Greek language (level B1), an examination that even many Cypriots would not successfully pass, as well as adequate resources to maintain and support themselves and their families. KISA considers that these provisions will make it impossible under the current conditions of immigration to obtain citizenship for almost all migrants who have been living and working for decades in our country, in employment sectors, employers and earnings set by the Law.
Finally, it should be noted that the applicants will be evaluated for their sufficient knowledge of basic elements of the political and social reality of the country by a three-member committee that will consist of 2 civil servants and one police officer.
Access to citizenship is currently the most effective means and tool for the integration of non-European citizens in the EU and its member states. KISA is of the opinion that with the above bill the government makes it very clear that it does not want to integrate all migrants and refugees irrespectively of residence status in the country, while it had no qualms or reservations about selling the Cypriot citizenship to the rich or even persons who participated in organised crime and serious violations of human rights.
The present government, spearheaded by the Minister of Interior, with the bill seeks to introduce into the law racist and arbitrary criteria so as to “legitimise” illegal practices that they have hitherto been practising and hence annulled by the courts
It also abolishes the most favourable provisions for refugees in breach of the Geneva Convention, while the period of asylum or subsidiary protection is not counted in the number of years of residence in breach of the principle of refugee status.
The above provisions circumvent the very notion of citizenship and the basic criterion on which it can be granted, that of real, family, economic and social ties with the country which are proven by the length of stay, in stark contrast to the principles of international law.
This post was originally published on KISA.