Perceptions Matter – What do Cypriots think about refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants?
The UNHCR office in Cyprus published today a report on public perceptions of refugees and migrants in Cyprus. The report, titled “Perceptions matter – What do Cypriots think about refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants”, presents a picture of how refugees are viewed and received by the population in Cyprus.
In an era of an unprecedented refugee crisis in Europe today, European societies need to be better prepared to accept an increasing number of refugees and show greater understanding and solidarity towards them. It becomes, therefore, all the more imperative for UNHCR to better understand the opinions and attitudes of hosting societies with a view to enable refugees to build their lives in their new countries.
The survey, which was conducted during June 2015 by RAI Consultants on behalf of the UNHCR Representation in Cyprus, revealed some very interesting findings as to what Cypriots from both communities think about refugees; their needs, the opportunities refugees have for becoming part of the Cypriot society, their contributions. The opinion poll shows that while many Cypriots are conscious of what it takes to promote smooth integration, they also seem to be overly concerned about their demography and competition for jobs. It would appear that most of the respondents based their answer on the false perception that there are too many refugees in Cyprus. Equally interesting and a source of concern for UNHCR was how Cypriots associate refugees and migrants with violence, criminality and to lesser extent with diseases.
An encouraging finding of the study however was that some 20% of the Cypriot population is favourably predisposed towards refugees and migrants and this is a good starting point for increased interaction and dialogue between the local communities and the refugee and migrant communities. There is a lot of work ahead in terms of raising awareness and dispelling myths pertaining to refugee and migration issues as well as in terms of supporting refugees in becoming part of the Cypriot society. To achieve this however there needs to be a joint effort by authorities, civil society and the general public.
The study covered a nationally representative sample of Greek and Turkish Cypriots, aged 18 years and over. The sample, consisting of 1000 interviews, was distributed proportionately between urban and rural areas in all the districts of Cyprus.