EU to help tackle racism in Cyprus

Cyprus Today - - NEWS - By ANIL IŞIK

THE Euro­pean Union stands ready to help tackle “racism and xeno­pho­bia” in Cyprus, an EU of­fi­cial said on Tues­day.

Arttu Makipaa, a sec­tion head of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s Struc­tural Re­form Sup­port Ser­vice (SRSS) Cyprus Set­tle­ment Sup­port Team, said the EC was on hand to “help local ac­tors to ef­fec­tively ad­dress these chal­lenges” by giv­ing “po­lit­i­cal im­pe­tus”.

He said the EC could also pro­vide “guid­ance on how to ef­fec­tively im­ple­ment poli­cies, through train­ing, or by de­vel­op­ing plat­forms for ex­change of meth­ods and prac­tices” as well as fund­ing “rel­e­vant projects and ini­tia­tives”.

He made the com­ments at a “di­ver­sity event” held in Le­fkoşa, also at­tended by the city’s mayor Mehmet Har­mancı, or­gan­ised by the SRSS to mark Euro­pean Ac­tion Week Against Racism.

The day saw stalls of­fer­ing foods from places in­clud­ing Pales­tine, Pak­istan, Afghanistan, Ukraine and North Cyprus, while in­ter­na­tional stu­dents from those coun­tries per­formed their coun­tries’ tra­di­tional dances.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Goethe-In­sti­tut Zypern, the Cyprus Turk­ish French Cul­tural As­so­ci­a­tion, the Refugee Rights As­so­ci­a­tion, SOS Chil­dren’s Vil­lage, Mağusa Youth Cen­tre and Akova Women’s As­so­ci­a­tion were also present to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about their or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“Too of­ten, people are ha­rassed, threat­ened or as­saulted ver­bally or phys­i­cally be­cause of their eth­nic ori­gin, skin colour, re­li­gion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or dis­abil­i­ties,” Mr Makipaa said, without re­fer­ring to any spe­cific in­ci­dents in Cyprus.

“The EC re­jects and con­demns all forms and man­i­fes­ta­tions of racism and xeno­pho­bia.”

Mr Makipaa said in­stances of racism and “other forms of in­tol­er­ance” such as “hate speech” had been grow­ing at an alarm­ing rate in Europe in re­cent years

“The use of the in­ter­net to in­cite vi­o­lence and ha­tred has in­deed a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect on the groups that it tar­gets and on those who stand for free­dom, tol­er­ance and nondis­crim­i­na­tion,” he said.

“Only to­gether will we be able to en­sure that ef­fec­tive mea­sures are put in place to pre­vent and com­bat racism, xeno­pho­bia and other forms of in­tol­er­ance in Europe.”

Mr Makipaa said “many projects ad­dress­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion and hu­man rights” in North Cyprus had al­ready been sup­ported as part of the EU’s “aid pro­gramme for the Turk­ish Cypriot com­mu­nity”.

Mr Har­mancı said racism and xeno­pho­bia were the “ma­jor prob­lem of this cen­tury”, not­ing that Turk­ish Cypri­ots had also been af­fected.

“The motto of our mu­nic­i­pal­ity is a city with di­ver­sity — dif­fer­ent colours — where all can co­ex­ist peace­fully,” he said.

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