The survey confirms the previous findings of this study, as related to the pandemic’s negative impacts on livelihoods, financial survival, education and personal development opportunities, and mental health on refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers in Cyprus.
It also highlights and confirms areas where authorities need to do better - addressing delays in the issue of residence permits, improving COVID-19 related communication in multiple languages, and improving access to healthcare and contraception.
Finally, it shows that discrimination and othering are rampant across the island and have probably increased due to the pandemic - a trend that needs to be immediately addressed.
In this, the second installation of a three-part study on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on refugees, migrants, and asylum seekers (RMAs) in Cyprus, Project Phoenix and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Cyprus Office provide the results of a detailed survey of these populations on both sides of the divided island.
Using a transdisciplinary systems-thinking approach, this study seeks to document the effects the pandemic has had on the social, economic, cultural, and personal lives of these populations in Cyprus, and to offer practical and effective recommendations based on these findings. Part I of the study offers a timeline-based overview of the COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. Part II is based on a detailed multi-city survey and interviews, offering first-person experiences and insight into the magnitude of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on individuals, while Part III consists of a white paper on potential solutions to ameliorate these impacts.
The survey was conducted from September to late December 2020, with approximately 180 RMAs and international students as respondents. Building upon Part I of this study, the survey probed the impact of the pandemic on the health, livelihoods, personal development, and education of these populations, and analysed how the pandemic affected legal status, the delivery of social benefits, and whether it furthered discrimination.
While the situation has slightly improved from the first COVID-19-related lockdown in spring 2020, the findings from the survey, in most cases, reinforce the results of Part I of the study, while providing more insight into how exactly the pandemic has affected RMAs in Cyprus. This report also provides some interesting commentary on causes and possible correlations.
In the Republic of Cyprus (RoC), the survey findings confirm that a majority of respondents (mainly asylum seekers from Africa) have suffered financially, with the loss of livelihoods and delays in receiving welfare benefits; they have lost opportunities for education and further development; suffered discrimination (half of all respondents); and found it difficult to communicate with authorities and to receive medical care, all compounding to affect their mental and physical wellbeing.
From a gender perspective, more men than women were likely to have lost their jobs or livelihoods, while a similar proportion of men and women suffered mental health impacts and, perhaps most worryingly, over 70% of female respondents struggled for access to contraceptives (of those who used them before the pandemic).
In the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (“TRNC”), the survey findings provide far more insight into the effect of the pandemic than previously available. The respondents (mainly international students from Africa) saw major disruptions to their education, affected mostly by the financial impacts of the pandemic. In addition, they reported job loss, often faced discrimination, and rarely received information from authorities in a language they spoke.
From a gender perspective, all the female respondents who had jobs lost them as compared to 70% of males, while similar proportions of males and females (over 60%) reported suffering negative mental health impacts due to the pandemic.
Finally, across the island, many respondents continue to remain on the margins of Cypriot society, experiencing long delays in renewing residence permits and immigration procedures, with limited legal recourse.