European commissioner promises to plead for rights of Iraqi refugees in Cyprus

The Council of Europe human rights commissioner has promised to contact the Cypriot government over the plight of Iraqi refugees that have protested outside the U.N. protected area in Nicosia for more than two months, the Cyprus Mail reported on Saturday.

Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg visited a group of Iraqis who are camping near the U.N. buffer zone and listened to their grievances on Friday.

"It is very sad that they have to demonstrate like this. There is a real refugee problem in Iraq and the international community has an obligation to protect these people," said Hammarberg.

"I will be raising the issue with the Cypriot authorities to see what can be done so that they can get their basic human rights," he added.

Some 80 Iraqi refugees on the Mediterranean island have been protesting that they have only received subsidiary status from the Cypriot government and have not been granted proper refugee status.

According to Cypriot law, a person given subsidiary protection by the government is only allowed to be employed in the agricultural and horticultural sectors for the first year.

The refugees argue that this is impossible for them as many of them have young children, and therefore they cannot survive.

A total of 12,508 asylum seekers from various countries were recorded as pending examination of their claims last year in Cyprus, only 924 were recorded as refugees, persons granted subsidiary protection and humanitarian status. Among the asylum seekers, 265 are from Iraq.

Source: Xinhua

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