Sina and Assandullah, recognised refugees from Iran, who now live in Cyprus, had the opportunity to share their life story with young Cypriots at the Pancyprian Youth Conference on Asylum*. The Cypriot youngsters had the chance to hear Sina and his father tell the story of how they got to Cyprus, after enormous difficulties and his father's imprisonment due to his political beliefs.
Having their lives at risk, Sina, his brother and father arrived in Cyprus in 2003 as asylum seekers. The evaluation process of their asylum application lasted five years, as it had initially been rejected and the family had to return to their country.
Assandullah had been imprisoned for four months, and began a hunger strike for seventy-four days. He wanted to prove that he would rather die in Cyprus than having to return to a country where he could be tortured or killed.
Once the Asylum Service reviewed Assandullah's interview files, it had become evident that the interview translator, who worked for the government of Iran, had given false and misleading information to the authorities. Assandullah was released and, two years later, the family's asylum application was accepted.
"When we got here we didn't know the language, we had literally nothing. However, we were left on our own", said Sina. "The first thing a government should do is teach people the language, so that we are able to find a job."
At work, Assandullah had been receiving unequal payment treatment. For the past three years the family has no income and has applied to the Welfare Office for assistance. Their application is still pending. At school, Sina and his brother were being bullied by their classmates, who used to beat and insult them, while their teachers refused to react. Sina's dream was to study Programming at the Cyprus University of Technology.
Two months before the examination, his brother passed away. He made sure to contact the Ministry of Education to request an exam extension, yet the response was negative. "Such arrangements only happen for Cypriots."
Nonetheless, Sina managed to get into the Higher Hotel Institute to study Hotel and Tourism Management. He hopes that one day he will be able to give something back to Cyprus. Sina takes every opportunity to speak about his life and learn about the Cypriot culture and traditions.
Despite all the obstacles, he chooses to keep the fond memories and see the positive side of his situation. He states glad to be in Cyprus, where he went to school, learnt the Greek language and made good friends.
"I want to complete the military service, just like the Cypriots and become a Cypriot citizen. After eleven years of living here, I am still considered as a Third Country National, but I don't feel that way, I don't see myself as a foreigner. We need somebody to hear our side of the story, and then decide whether we're here to receive any checks or steal any rights."