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Media Watch 2003

08 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Sofia Kannas
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 8 May 2003
Turkish Cypriots beginning to look for jobs in south

A HANDFUL of Turkish Cypriots have already begun visiting job centres in the south, a source at the Labour Ministry said yesterday.

A large influx of Turkish Cypriots job-seekers was anticipated by the authorities, after the partial easing of restrictions on the freedom of movement was announced by the Turkish Cypriot side on April 22.

Nicosia District Labour Officer Fidias Panayides said yesterday that around 15 Turkish Cypriots had come to register for jobs so far. He stressed that the figure was relatively low so far, largely due to the nature of the registration procedure, which requires applicants to have a Cyprus identity card and passport.

“Only a few people came to be registered because some of them went to get a Cyprus identity card or passport first. Our computerised system requires passport and I.D numbers,” he said. “So, yesterday only two people came to register; the day before that only three people – they come in small numbers. They come to register first and if we have vacancies we offer them jobs.”

Panayides added that the district office had introduced a Turkish-speaking officer to help Turkish Cypriots register.

Asked how many jobs had been taken up by Turkish Cypriots from the north so far, he said: “we found about five people jobs so far. Most of these were in the building industry in Nicosia.”

Panayides said the Ministry was expecting the number of job-seekers from the occupied areas to increase in the next few weeks.

The opening of the checkpoints has led employers’ organisations on both sides of the divide to reassess their positions.

The President of the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation, Byron Kranidiotis, told the Cyprus Mail that his organisation had already been in contact with the respective federation in the breakaway north.

“We had a meeting three weeks ago with the Employers’ Federation on the other side,” he said, adding that the Turkish Cypriot federation downplayed suggestions that Turkish Cypriots would flock to the more affluent south in search of better-paid jobs.

“When we mentioned the idea of employing labour from the north in the south, they said ‘we don’t have available labour’. I mentioned that the rules of economy would unfold, and that nobody could go against these – if there is a salary three times as high in the south, naturally it will draw people from the north. They said if this was the case, they would be forced to employ foreign labour from the Turkish mainland,” he added.

Several hundred Turkish Cypriots have been working in the building industry in the free areas of Ayia Napa and Protaras, even before the checkpoints were opened, crossing through the checkpoint at Pergamos into the British bases.

Kranidiotis added that now that Cyprus was a European Union member, any shortage of labour in the free areas could be easily met by employing foreigners from within EU countries.

“We can get the labour we need from the EU – we are in touch with Poland now,” he said. “Poland has a high rate of unemployment.”

Antonis Petasis, Director of Social Insurance Services at the Labour Ministry, confirmed yesterday that several Turkish Cypriots had enquired about what benefits they could expect if they took up jobs in the south.

“Some asked about old age pensions, others about providence funds and annual leave,” he said.

He added that one individual from the north had even requested his social security benefit ‘owed’ to him from before the invasion in 1974.

“But benefits usually only go back three months. If there is a very serious reason to, we may go back one or two years, at the most,” Petasis said, adding that members of both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities would be entitled to the same benefits, as Cypriot citizens.

“Turkish Cypriots will get the same as Greek Cypriots.”"