The results of Perceptions of Cypriots about Refugees and Migrants, a study that was undertaken by the University of Cyprus Center for Field Studies (UCFS), for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cyprus were presented this morning. The survey took place between September and December 2018 […]
The results of Perceptions of Cypriots about Refugees and Migrants, a study that was undertaken by the University of Cyprus Center for Field Studies (UCFS), for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cyprus were presented this morning. The survey took place between September and December 2018 in order to study perceptions of and attitudes towards refugees and migrants across the divide in Cyprus. This was done through an analysis of public opinion in the two communities of Cyprus around relevant issues. A similar study, Perceptions Matter, was commissioned by UNHCR in 2015; one purpose of the present study was therefore to observe and analyse any changes in attitudes during the three-year period, and highlight any changes observed. UNHCR will use the findings to develop specific and informed strategies in their ongoing protection and advocacy work on the island.
“One of the main challenges in effectively protecting refugees in their reception countries is the public opinion. A new country will only become a new home if refugees feel welcome and accepted. Getting laws and policies right is also vital. But it’s the local people and communities that are on the frontline when refugees arrive, and whose attitude makes the difference between rejection and inclusion; between despair and hope; between being left behind and building a future,” said UNHCR Representative in Cyprus, Katja Saha in her opening remarks.
“Distorted political narratives have led a growing number of people to believe that refugees and migrants are a threat and that they are to blame for a number of social issues. Global statistics tell us that 9 out of 10 refugees globally are hosted in poor and middle- income countries, not in Europe. Yet, European countries including Cyprus feel overburdened with the current refugee flows,” Saha said. “Such worrisome trends of labelling refugees as a threat, have recently been intensified also in the political and public debate in Cyprus. Statements made by politicians or the press, presenting Cyprus as being swamped by refugees; refugees branded as possible terrorists or as a cause for demographic changes on the island are not conducive to a welcoming environment, which is a prerequisite for a smooth integration of refugees.”
“One important positive finding of this survey is that when people get to know refugees they tend to have positive disposition and empathy towards this population. It is the personal story of suffering but also of courage, strength and resilience, that enables hosting communities to feel empathy and understanding,” Saha said. Focusing on key positive findings of the survey, she called on individuals at all levels of society to be properly informed, and to focus attention away from negative narratives and instead towards how to provide asylum-seekers and refugees with adequate and sufficient reception conditions, to end the growing problem of homelessness and to offer protection to the most vulnerable.
The key findings of the study include the following:
See below the full Report, as well as the Executive Summary in Greek and in English:
See below the 2015 findings in Greek and English: