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Media Watch 2003

01 May 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: George Psyllides
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 1 May 2003
Greek and Turkish Cypriots rush for passports

THINGS WERE much smoother at the three checkpoints yesterday, though hundreds of Greek and Turkish Cypriots crowded the district administrations in Nicosia and Larnaca in an effort to secure passports.

The movement of people and cars at the three checkpoints, Ledra Palace, Pergamos and Strovilia, was much better compared to the huge delays seen in previous days, partly because most people returned to work after the Easter break.

Police said 12,499 Greek Cypriots crossed the three checkpoints by 3pm compared to 1,921Turkish Cypriots.

The same could not be said about the Nicosia and Larnaca administrations however, which were flocked by Greek and Turkish Cypriots eager to secure passports -- each for their own reasons.

Greek Cypriots want passports to be able to travel to the north, while Turkish Cypriots want them because Cyprus will be part of the European Union in a year's time.

Larnaca district officer Kyriacos Mattheou said the huge demand was due to the lifting of the restrictions on movement.

“Surely the situation is due to free movement; though we had large numbers of Turkish Cypriots before, now their numbers have increased enormously,” Mattheou said.

He said the administration had to staff all positions concerning passport matters, bringing in additional personnel from other departments.

Mattheou added that the administration was ready to bring in more computers if the situation continued.

The situation was similar in Nicosia, where people had to wait in queues to get their paperwork processed.

An elderly Turkish Cypriot man told the Cyprus Mail that he got fed up of waiting and decided to leave and go back on Friday, this time with his forms filled and photos in hand.

Meanwhile, Justice Minsiter Doros Theodorou said that the government has asked for seven more checkpoints to be opened to accommodate the thousands of Greek Cypriots who wanted to visit the occupied north.

The checkpoints include three in Nicosia - Ledra Street, Ayios Kassianos and Ayios Dhometios, which was expected to be opened late yesterday afternoon and Pyrgos, Morphou, and Dherynia.

Theodorou accused Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash for putting people though a lot of unnecessary hardship due to the procedures the occupying regime had in place for crossing over.

“The inconvenience is unimaginable; it's an inhuman situation and let us not forget that this is because of the unreasonable demands and antics of Denktash's regime,” Theodorou said.

The minister said the government was doing everything it could to improve the conditions for those queuing to cross to the north by providing better shelters from the sun and looking into installing refrigerators so that people standing in line for hours have access to cold water.

Water containers and plastic cups have been placed on barrels along the route but the increasing heat and their exposure to dust and exhaust fumes discourages people from using them.

Foreign Minister George Iacovou yesterday reiterated the government would not put conditions on its citizens visiting the north and said people should decide for themselves on how to behave.

Iacovou was commenting on the Turkish Cypriot regime's decision to allow overnight stays in the north of up to three days.

But the same government advice fell on deaf ears six days ago when the restrictions were restricted and people flocked the checkpoints to cross.

Iacovou said Denktash had exploited the peoples' yearning to visit their homes, coupled with the fear that the Turkish Cypriot leader could suddenly change his mind and shut the checkpoints.

The minister said Denktash was trying to mislead international public opinion and at the same time advance his own financial and political interests adding however that the government was well aware of the situation and was taking all necessary measures to prevent Denktash from shying away from his responsibilities concerning the Cyprus problem.

According to the Turkish Cypriot press, in the six days since the restrictions were lifted, around $2.5 million has flowed in the north, with around £90,000 stemming from insurance fees paid for the 13,480 cars that crossed from the government controlled areas.

Turkish Cypriot opposition daily Africa yesterday slammed the regime for causing so much hardship to Greek Cypriots crossing, while other newspapers spoke of the inflated prices charged by taxi drivers and restaurants.

A prime example was car insurance, which went up to between £8 and £10 compared to £4 on the first day.

Organised groups in the north have condemned the profiteering and have asked for price lists to be set up.

Despite the warm rapprochement climate between the two communities, officials of the regime insisted in using inflammatory language in relation to the activities organised jointly by Greek and Turkish unions to observe May 1 Labour Day holiday.

'Prime minister' Dervish Eroglu said measures would be taken “because it was not normal for foreigners who come from the south to make rallies in the TRNC”.

On the other hand Turkish Cypriot tour operators have repeatedly approached their Greek Cypriot counterparts regarding organising trips to the north."