The Republic of Cyprus has a population made up of two main ethnic groups, with nearly four fifths of Greek Cypriots and one fifth Turkish Cypriots. Migrants also contribute to the diverse Cypriot society although they account for a small minority. Until 1990, Cyprus had restrictive immigration policy which was abandoned to meet the country’s economic development objectives (Trimikliniotis & Demetriou 2007). Since its accession to the European Union in 2004, Cyprus’ immigrant population increased to around 20% (Trimikliniotis 2013). With it also came some improvements in human rights, anti-discrimination, and equal employment legislations. In education, an intercultural approach is pursued as part a drive to Europeanise the education system. However, some aspects of the integration policies remain restrictive (Akçali 2007; Trimikliniotis 2013). In particular, non-EU migrants in Cyprus have restricted access to basic rights and are denied opportunities in the education, health, and political system (Solano & Huddleston 2020). Migrants thus face challenges to integrate in the society and are generally seen as strangers rather than equal or potential citizens. This influences social attitudes to migrants and limits intercultural relations.
Cyprus has achieved an overall ICDI score of 0.639. An above average score of 0.808 in the component of freedom and rights signal a high degree of press freedom and freedom of both domestic and foreign movement along with travel. Also, a high score in the component of anti-discrimination indicates the presence of anti-discrimination laws and related initiatives. In contrast, moderate scores in the components of fractionalisation and (in)equality along with lower scores in the components of social contact and access to communication lend to a less positive structural dimension in comparison to the country’s legislative and opportunities dimensions.
Current Situation and Outlook
Cyprus’s legislative and opportunities dimensions promote the presence of anti-discrimination laws and related initiatives and, encourage freedom of expression amongst and between the different communities. Cyprus’s ICDI score could improve if more attention is given to strengthening its structural dimension where low scores in the components of social contact and access to communication indicate that contact is lacking among the different ethnic communities, while access to communication could be restricted for others. Should the structural dimension persist, there is a possibility for social cohesion to be weakened.