Cyprus’ Attitude to the Settlers needs to change

By Tom Cleaver

I was shopping in Nicosia last week, Dereboyu to be precise. I wasn’t expecting to end the day with a political point to make, but in Cyprus politics is never too far away, and here we are.

I walked into one particular shop and was greeted by one of the attendants, a man in his twenties. After talking for a bit he decided to try some of his Greek on me, and started asking me for the Greek words of a couple of things in the shop, and using them where he could. He told me how he was trying to learn because more and more Greek Cypriots were coming to the shop, and about how he had made Greek Cypriot friends. Seemingly a true Cypriot, then.

I was then surprised to learn that he had never crossed south, and then quite miffed when I found out why. His parents had immigrated to Cyprus from Turkey at some point between 1974 and the early nineties when he was born. According to the Republic of Cyprus, therefore, despite being born on this island, this man was an illegal immigrant and is not allowed to enter the territory which it controls.

Now, I’m not particularly sold on the idea of some humans being illegal for just existing on a piece of land at the best of times, but this is very much a step further.

First of all I’ll address the issue of the settlers from Turkey. They are here as part of what seems like a state-sponsored migration programme aimed at altering the demographics of Cyprus, and this is of course in principle an abhorrent act by the Republic of Turkey. However, once a migrant from Turkey is in Nicosia and theoretically is being turned away from a checkpoint, they are very much already here. All we are doing here is turning the money that they were probably going to spend away. Maybe that’s what the government wants, but given that the self same government was saying about how we can’t be the world’s policeman and we can’t care too much about where the money comes from when talking about suitcases full of roubles being wheeled into the country in exchange for citizenship of the EU, surely that isn’t the case…

So we should let them cross, let them come south, let them interact with us and be a part of Cyprus as a whole. Because the current strategy is hardly putting them off from moving to Cyprus, and despite the dreams of men in black t-shirts they’re here for ever now too. In any case of reunification of the island, and of course without question if we carry on not uniting the island, there is no way which they will ever be forced to leave.

The case of their children, however, is even more stark. I can’t be the only person who finds it ridiculous that there are people born in Cyprus who the Republic of Cyprus refuses to allow into the areas of the island it controls. Even in the case that we cannot accept their parents for the technically illegal act of moving to the north and will not accept them coming into the rest of the country under any circumstances, I think that this should not apply to their children, who had no say whatsoever in the matter and cannot possibly be “punished” for the “crimes” of their parents, or more accurately, the crimes of the government of their parents’ homeland.

These people had no choice but to be born in Cyprus, but born in Cyprus they were. This island is their home. At an absolute minimum one of them, but almost certainly more, wants to communicate and interact with Cypriots of all backgrounds. They want to create friendships, and probably want to see the remaining two thirds of the island that they had the (mis)fortune to be born on; and in my opinion the Republic of Cyprus denying them that most basic of rights on the very land they were born on is morally criminal.

It is not a valid political stance to wish to deny the right of entry into the areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus to people who were born on this island. You can be as angry as you like at the settlers themselves for technically breaking the law of this country when they moved here and wish to deny them entry to the Republic of Cyprus controlled areas based on that, and I will disagree with you but understand your viewpoint. However, their children have committed no crime, and a country which punishes people simply for having the apparent audacity to be born is not the sort of country that we should want to live in.