Due to their humanitarian nature, urgency and increased relevance as aconsequence of events on the ground, the issues of migrants and refugees are appearing more and more prominently these days in the deliberations of international organizations in Geneva, with the IOM and UNHCR spear-heading global efforts to manage the crisis.
Cyprus, through the Permanent Mission, is actively following and participating in all relevant deliberations, advocating for a holistic approach that will also address the root causes of the problem, whilst of course keeping the focus very much on the urgent need to save lives and alleviate the pain and suffering of refugees and migrants on the move.
The issue of displacement has always been at the heart of Geneva’s agenda, as the two main leading organizations in the field, namely the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), have their headquarters here. Both these humanitarian organizations were created in the aftermath of World War II in an effort to manage the displacement of millions of people.
Established in 1951, the IOM is the principal inter-governmental agency in the field of migration with a wide membership of 162 states and further 9 states which hold the observer status. IOM primarily engages with the promotion of humane and orderly migration at an international level through its cooperation with governmental, intergovernmental and non- governmental partners as well as the UN. IOM has a field presence in more than 120 countries with its 460 offices around the globe.
The Republic of Cyprus became a member of IOM in May 1974 and since then, it is closely cooperating with the said organization in the areas of voluntary returns and trafficking of persons, as well as in the framework of the European Migration Network.
In November 2015, IOM opened a country office in Cyprus, which falls under the purview of the IOM Regional Office for the European Economic Area, the European Union and NATO in Brussels. The inauguration ceremony was attended by the Deputy Director General of the Organization, Ms. Laura Thomson.
UNCHR was established in 1950 and has become the world’s leading organization catering to issues pertaining to refugees. Since 2003 it operates as a permanent agency of the UN from its headquarters in Geneva. Its role today is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees by the help of its staff, currently composed of 9,300 people working in 123 different countries. Both the Geneva Refugee Convention of 1951 and the London Protocol of 1967 serve as the legal basis for refugee protection and have the core principles of UNHCR articulated therein.
UNHCR established its presence in Cyprus in 1974 in order to provide protection and assistance to thousands of Cypriots, forced to be displaced after the Turkish invasion. It maintained this role until 1997, when it handed over all programmes for internally displaced to other UN agencies responsible for development work. Until 2002, the office of UNCHR in Cyprus was responsible for registering asylum seekers and processing their application, on behalf of the Cyprus government. Since then, Cyprus took over from UNHCR the responsibility of asylum adjudication. Today, UNCHR is cooperating with various governmental ministries, especially those of the interior, foreign affairs, justice, education, labour and social affairs and offers its technical assistance to the Cyprus authorities, when needed.
The Republic of Cyprus is supporting the work of both organizations referred to above by its active participation in their main proceedings and through its assessed and voluntary contributions. The Permanent Mission in Geneva plays an important role in this. Despite the difficult economic situation, Cyprus recently pledged to offer 2.4 million euro for Lebanon and Jordan, which are facing great economic and social constraints due to the hosting of Syrian refugees. This commitment was made at London Conference in February 2015, where the Republic of Cyprus was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Ioannis Kasoulides.
In addition to the aforementioned pledge, Minister Kasoulides announced the establishment of a Scholarship Plan by the Republic of Cyprus for postgraduate programs to be offered to Syrian refugees, temporarily living in Lebanon and Jordan. The funding of the Plan will be 100 thousand euro per academic year, for a five-year period (academic years 2016-2021).
It’s worth mentioning that Geneva is the center for other initiatives with an important role to play in addressing the refugees/migrants crisis the world is face with, such as the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) and the Global Migration Group (GMG), both monitored by the Permanent Mission.