Cyprus Border Crossing Dangers
Story dated 25 November 2006
|During recent years the opportunities for free movement of people and goods between North and South Cyprus have increased due to the opening of official cyprus border crossing points. The busiest is at Metehan in Nicosia. While the political problems of Cyprus often appear intractable, the free movement of people has undoubtedly assisted the process of reconciliation between the two communities. In addition, many Turkish Cypriots travel South every day in order to work.|
However, this may well be about to change.
There have always been complaints about the conduct of the Greek Republic of Cyprus border guards and their inconvenient habit of searching tourist luggage and even searching the entire contents of vehicles. The Bird Flue scare led to heightened vigilance at the border crossing and the author was questioned at the Metehan checkpoint as to whether he had any poultry with him. As I was in a taxi, dressed in a suit and carrying a laptop computer, it was difficult to imagine where I could be concealing poultry. The Turkish Cypriot car behind fared worse, the guards not only looked in the boot, but they also asked for the bonnet to be opened. Any poultry in the engine compartment would be a new form of cooked chicken.
On a more serious note, the Greek guards are looking for British tourists who have bought property in North Cyprus, or who have Estate Agent's literature in their luggage. This is based on their opinion that most of the property in North Cyprus belongs to dispossessed Greek owners.
The situation has unfortunately worsened. A Russian couple have been arrested by Greek Cypriot police on charges of "buying a house in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC)."
The Russian couple, at the Ledra Palace border crossing located north of the U.N.controlled green line buffer zone on the divided island, were stopped by Greek Cypriot police. They were detained at the checkpoint since they were in possession of a property deed showing that they bought a villa.The couple was later arrested by Nicosia authorities on Sunday 19 November 2006 for buying a house purported to be built on property belonging to a Greek Cypriot
This alarming development was followed on Wednesday 22 November 2006 by news that the Greek Cypriot Administration had enacted a law in October that bans the sale, purchase or construction of any houses on property in Turkish Cyprus that was formerly owned by Greek Cypriots.
Greek Cypriot Justice and Public Order Minister Sofoklis Sofokleous said that everyone involved in trading of the houses in question would be identified and put on trial in a Greek Cypriot court.
He went on to say that the law would also be binding to Turkish Cypriots who moved to the northern part of island after 1974 when the island was divided and are staying in houses formerly owned by Greek Cypriots. "They will be arrested if they cross the cyprus border to the southern part of the island," he added.
According to Republic of Cyprus law, anyone who buys, sells, builds or live in a house in the properties which belonged to Greek Cypriots could face a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
The Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister, Ferdi Sabit Soyer, has reacted to this draconian step
stating that the move showed ill intent, and would help worsen the relations between the two communities on the island.
The Turkish Cypriot side will have no other option but to retaliate, he added.
Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat warned that the move could lead to the closure of the cyprus border crossing points, including the pedestrian border crossing at Ledra Palace, as anxiety would deter Turkish Cypriots from going south.
From the viewpoint of British house purchasers in North Cyprus, special care should be taken at any cyprus border crossing checkpoint as any documents relating to North Cyprus properties could lead to arrest by the Greek border guards. This is especially a dangerous for British visitors who are visiting North Cyprus via a flight to Larnaca and then crossing the cyprus border. Larnaca has become a popular access route to North Cyprus due to the availability of cheap flights throughout the year from UK regional airports and several tour operators are marketing holiday packages based on this route.