Students discuss refugee crisis with government ministers in Cyprus

Students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have met with government ministers in Cyprus to discuss ways of assisting refugees and asylum seekers.

A group of eight students have travelled to the island on a #DMUglobal trip thanks to a volunteering opportunity through #DMUlocal.

Cyprus at Foreign Ministry

DMU has been asked by the United Nations to take a lead in engaging the higher education sector in the #JoinTogether campaign to help refugees and this trip has been arranged to give students an international perspective on the global refugee crisis.

Along with students from #JoinTogether partner institution Frederick University, they were invited to Cyprus’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs where they met with Nikos Christodoulides, the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Mr Christodoulides told students that a holistic approach is needed to tackle the issue of migration and that the root causes need to be addressed by the international community.

He answered questions from DMU students about how other EU countries need to share the burden to help countries with high numbers of migrants such as Cyprus and how the younger generation can be better educated about the subject.

The minister closed the discussion by inviting students to continue engaging on the issue of migration and asked them to send any suggestions of improvements to his office.

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Law student Connall Pugh said that the meeting was ‘thought provoking’ and provided a unique opportunity to discuss such an important topic with a significant government minister.

He said: “It was quite a privilege really, for him to take time out of his day and speak to students says a lot about the administration as a whole and shows that they respect and acknowledge the student voice.”

The students also visited the Cyprus Ministry of Internal Affairs where they met with staff members including Stavros Christofi, the head of Cyprus’ Asylum Service.

Mr Christofi oversees the process for asylum seekers in the country and answered questions from students relating to how asylum seekers are integrated into society, how they find skilled work, the perception of migrants in Cyprus and how cases involving minors and vulnerable adults are handled.

Cyprus currently has 7000 pending asylum applications and only around half of all applicants are granted refugee status. Staff from the Interior Ministry explained how they are planning to speed up the process so that the asylum seekers who are in most need of assistance can be settled more quickly.

Staff and students from DMU and Frederick also had the chance to share information about the various programmes that their universities operate in order to help migrants.

Italian student Wendy Kofi Adu, who studies Criminology at DMU, said: “It was so inspiring to see how much work they are doing in Cyprus, even though they are such a small country.

“I think it’s such a great example for bigger countries like the United Kingdom and Germany of how to take care of refugees and make them part of our society, and not just see them as a problem.”

Cyprus at Refugee Centre

During their five days in Cyprus, DMU students have been joined by a group of students from Nicosia-based Frederick University. They also visited the Kofinou Refugee Reception Centre near the town of Larnaca in order to get a first-hand look at how asylum seekers are looked after in Cyprus.

The group was given a tour of the facility by the director of the centre, which is the only permanent refugee reception centre on the island and has space for up to 400 asylum seekers, and were able to speak to staff about the process for asylum seekers in Cyprus.

They will end the trip by attending an event at Frederick University on Thursday 18 October to discuss what else #JoinTogether partners can do to support refugees and asylum seekers worldwide.

Posted on Wednesday 17 October 2018

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