Wednesday, January 09, 2008
IMMIGRANT STAND OFF ON CYPRUS: "NOBODY CARES ABOUT US"
Seven Iraqi men and an Iranian threatened to throw themselves off a 14-metre fire tower in a British military base on Cyprus today in protest at not being given asylum status or a British passport, officials told AFP.
The eight single men, who have lived illegally in the sovereign base areas for seven years, climbed the tower at around 7 am at Episkopi garrison on the outskirts of the southern port town of Limassol.
The men have taken food and water with them and have unfurled a banner demanding passports, after British immigration officials rejected their application late last year.
"They don't give us our rights. Nobody cares about us, we demand British passports. We're serious about jumping," Nabil Naji, 36, told the Associated Press by cell phone from atop the fire service training tower. Naji, who said he was from Babylon, said British authorities had told him he had to leave by January 14. "I have nowhere to go," he said.
A special UK immigration team flew to Cyprus last year to review the men’s case but they now face eviction from the bases for illegal entry via the Turkish-controlled north of the Mediterranean island.
British Forces Cyprus spokesman Captain Nick Ulvert told AFP, ""Any thought of them getting a British passport is out of the question, they don’t meet the criteria."
The British military says the Cyprus government has agreed to examine any application from the men for asylum or refugee status as a matter of priority. The men have so far refused this offer.
A local immigration support group has criticised the British military, saying it has tried to remove the problem by shifting responsibility to the Cyprus government.
The following is from the Famagusta Gazette (Cyprus).
Illegal Iraqi immigrants protest at British army base
A group of Iraqi illegal immigrants who have scaled a 14-metre tower at one of Cyprus' British army bases are demanding British passports.
The eight Iraqi immigrants scaled a police garrison's abandoned 14-metre fire personnel training tower at the British Sovereign Base Area (SBA) in Episkopi this morning and threatened to jump off unless they were granted passports.
The protesters, who according to reports are still on the tower, appear to be well-stocked-up on food and water. They have been hosted at the Dhekelia base for the last seven years after arriving on the island illegally by boat from the occupied north.
An SBA spokesman said that no effort would be made to bring them down from the tower. It was made clear to the protesters that the British bases do not have the authority to issue passports and that they should instead present themselves to the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus, he added.