I have been in Cyprus for the last 14 months as an asylum seeker.
Sometimes I wonder: Are we, asylum seekers, really treated as residents of this country? Do we have the same rights as nationals do? No. What I mean is, when I go to public offices, they attend first to Cypriots, and then to us. They always say ‘’Come back the next day or next week’’. It is quite disheartening and disturbing. We feel that we don’t belong here.
Everyone in this country sees us as something like sex workers. We are offered money for sex. We are walking down the street and they wave at us ‘Hey, 15 euros, 10 minutes’. It’s like you are less than a human being. It is very difficult to digest the situation.
“They see us as sex workers. It’s like you are less than a human being.”
Finding a job is not a bed of roses either. Especially now, after the coronavirus period, job opportunities for asylum seekers are extremely limited, and sometimes even absent. Even when we get lucky and we find a job, the struggle does not end there. We are being exploited by some employers. We are forced to work extra hours without getting paid more. Sometimes we work for sixteen hours with no break. My ancestors went through slavery, and now, I don’t know, I feel like it’s something close to that. Apart from these, we often become victims of sexual harassment by our bosses. It’s very difficult…
We didn’t come to steal any job from anybody. We came because of the situation we faced in our countries. We came because we wanted to increase our living standards. I believe that we are passersby. I mean, refugee problems never last for long, when the problems back in their countries are solved, they voluntarily return home. We didn’t come to stay.
“We didn’t come to steal any job from anybody.”
We also have very limited access to basic human rights. Yes, they give us some benefits from the social welfare services, and we appreciate and thank the government for that, but some of us, really do not get any. For example, I met a mother with a child, and she said to me ‘ I haven’t had my benefits for two months, they have not paid my rent’’. How do they expect people to cope in a foreign land? It is like we left war and came to a similar situation. I am sorry to say this, but it is quite difficult to survive.