Justice Minister cautions Turkey over illegal immigrants
Nicosia, Jan 16 (CNA) - Figures which show that the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus continue to present a ''black hole'' for Cyprus as far as illegal immigrants are concerned, were presented here Monday by the Police Immigration Department.
The figures also indicate that Cyprus remains first on the list of EU states in applications for political asylum.
Speaking at a press conference in the presence of Police Chief Tasos Panagiotou on the Immigration Department's work, Minister of Justice and Public Order Doros Theodorou pointed out that the government will do everything possible so that Turkey, which does not require visas for those traveling to the occupied areas of the island, will undertake its responsibilities as an EU candidate country and fight illegal immigration networks.
According to figures presented during the press conference, in 2004 there were 5,287 illegal immigrants of whom only seven came to the island from the coasts in the government controlled areas of the Republic. The rest were from the occupied areas. From the 5,175 illegal immigrants in 2005, only 16 came from the coasts in the free areas while the remaining entered the island through the north.
Regarding political asylum seekers, in 2004 when Cyprus joined the EU, the number reached 9,655 while in 2005 the number went down to 7,551, marking a 21% decrease. The problem of political asylum seekers is being exacerbated by the illegal immigrants coming from the Turkish occupied areas since in 2004 a total of 2,728 persons who came to the island illegally from the north applied for asylum and a further 3,911 applied in 2005.
''Illegal immigration continues to be a phenomenon which is related to the occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus, and the numbers speak for themselves,'' Theodorou said.
Another reason for the increase in the number of illegal immigrants, the Minister said, is because the occupation regime did not punish those arrested in February 2005 in the occupied areas.
''We are talking about organised human trafficking,'' he said, noting that this ''has evolved in Turkey and involves a number of situations and many countries of origin,'' including Greek Cypriots, he added, noting that government representations have yielded results.
Stressing that there is no agreement between Cyprus and Turkey for the readmission of Turkish nationals arrested in the government controlled areas coming from the occupied areas, the Minister said this causes the Republic a number of problems.
''This is something which we will not tolerate anymore. We are demanding from the EU, and there are indications that the EU is responding, to impose on Turkey its obligations to combat the cartels and human trafficking and to make agreements to readmit its nationals,'' the Minister stressed.
He also said that in 2006 Cyprus will exert all possible pressure and influence on the EU to make Turkey comply with EU decisions.
Theodorou called for the establishment of a European fund to handle illegal immigration and already the EU has set up a fund for northern Africa, adding that it will do the same for the Eastern Mediterranean. ''Therefore, in 2006 we will benefit from such a programme,'' he added.
Police Chief Panagiotou said that the Police have made remarkable achievements on the issue of employing illegal immigrants, since in 2004 it arrested 234 employers and in 2005 a total of 362.
In addition, a total of 149 cases of forged documents such as identity cards, passports or visas were discovered. Among the passports which were forged are French, British, Scandinavian and even Cypriot.
Theodorou said that if political measures are implemented, then there will be a marked decreased in the wave of illegal immigrants coming mostly from Turkey.