The experience of a Briton who visited the Paphos Immigration Department to establish whether he required a yellow slip – reported in the last issue of the Sunday Mail – was telling. He asked an official if he needed a yellow slip and the reply he received was ‘It’s better (if you had one).’ This is not the type of answer any citizen should be given by a government office. A state document is something you either need or you do not, it is not a matter of personal choice.
All the problems began a year ago when the government scrapped identity cards for EU nationals. Until then, the foreigners could use the Cyprus ID for dealings with state offices, banks and insurance firms. However, the ID was a legal aberration, because it included the nationality of the holder, and the Cyprus Republic could not bestow citizenship of another country on an individual. It was an embarrassing mistake which is why the ID for foreigners was scrapped overnight without any explanation.
The interior ministry made matters worse by failing to issue clear guidelines about what was required of EU nationals permanently living in Cyprus. This remains unclear today. There are no information leaflets, nothing is posted on the ministry web-site and officials at different departments give different advice. This is no way for the state to treat any of its citizens, let alone a group that makes up 13 per cent of the population. People have a right to clear information from the state about what is legally expected of them.
Apart from providing guidelines, in several EU languages, the state should also ensure that the procedure is fast and easy. The responsibility should be given to the Citizen Service Bureau, which is both efficient and helpful. After all, EU nationals should only have to register as permanent residents once, with the authorities. They do not have to answer questions or give explanations to immigration officials. And the yellow slip issued, could be used as a form of ID.
It should be simple and straightforward, but it seems state bureaucrats go out of their way to make life as difficult and confusing as possible for citizens.
Published on March 29, 2012