News Local Iraqi refugees protest outside Labour Ministry (pictures)

Iraqi refugees protest outside Labour Ministry (pictures)

By Stelios Marathovouniotis

About 60 Iraqi refugees gathered today outside the Labour Ministry to demand help from the government and for their children to be allowed to go to school.

The refugees, 16 families, most of Kurdish origin, gathered around 1 pm, holding banners and asking to meet with someone from the Ministry.

No Ministry official came to meet them and they were informed by police officers that they should come again tomorrow.

Ministry officials did not come out to talk to the refugees.

A source from a social organisation that helps refugees told in-cyprus that the people came to Cyprus in June and have been staying at a Nicosia hotel, with their rent paid by the government.

According to the source, each refugee is allowed €100 for rent, a couple is given €150 and a family of two €200.

They are allowed to have one meal per day at the hotel and they also receive food coupons which they can redeem from three supermarkets.

They cannot sign up their children to school as they have no permanent residence to declare and they are not allowed to work as their citizenship status has not yet been cleared.

The people stayed outside the Ministry from 1 pm to 3pm.

Vian, mother of two, who served as translator for the group said that they left Iraq as their “lives were no longer safe there” and they did not get their rights.

“Our request is find us a place to stay or let us live in the camp so we can send our children to school.”

Recently, the hotel informed the families that they had to leave “as they are not trying to find a house,” Vian said.

Although the refugees really appreciate the help they get, “the government does not understand that you cannot find a place to rent with €200,” the source told us. Also, “they are living in hotel rooms, they don’t have anywhere to cook the groceries they get with their coupons.”

“For the past three months we didn’t cook anything hot for our children, we are giving them biscuits and juice. They are crying for food. We are asking please help us. It’s very important. We will stay here until we find a solution.” Vian said.

The refugees said that their lives in Iraq became “living hell” so they came to Cyprus to live in a democratic state.

The source said that the biggest problem the refugees face is the uncertainty over their situation. Many times their grocery coupons are delayed and as all the aid they receive from the state is in the form of coupons or rent-help, they do not have any cash money to take the bus to go to either the supermarket or the welfare office.

Additionally, in July, they were regularly being told that they cannot stay at the hotel so they had to sleep in tents at the Nicosia Municipal Garden.

“We would be at the hotel for two or three days and then they would kick us out. Then we went to the park for two-three days. After a few days the police would come at midnight and tell us that we can go stay at the hotel and after some days we were out on the road again,” Vian said.

Peshtiwan (left) and his wife Bayal. Peshtiwan is a journalist that investigated corruption in Iraq but left the country after he received threats for his life.

“We really want to work, we want to find a house, we want to send our children to school but we cannot do anything. We cannot find a house for 200 euros. Whenever we speak to landlords and tell them that we are refugees and that the welfare office will pay our rent, they say ‘no, no, no, sorry the house is rented’. They don’t want to give a house to refugees. What should we do? We request from the government to send us to the camp in Kofinou. Send us there so our children can go to school. We won’t have any problem there, because they will provide us food and we’ll have a place to stay,” Vian said.

The refugees left around 3 pm and said that they will return tomorrow.

The protesters left after it started raining but said that they will be outside the Ministry again tomorrow.

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