Written by Mr. Simon Bahceli*
Tens of thousands of mainland Turks could soon become new ‘citizens’ of the breakaway north, according to critics of an “immigration regulation” approved by the Turkish Cypriot ‘council of ministers’ yesterday. Although details of the regulation were yet to be made public, the north’s ‘interior minister’ Nazim Cavusoglu said it included provisions for the provision of “white” and “green” identity cards for those who wish to stay on the island but were willing to forgo the right to vote, stand for election or work in the public sector.
Cavusoglu said he intended the new regulation, which still needs the approval of the ‘attorney general’, to “put an end to illegal immigration” and “allow for non-TRNC citizens to live like TRNC citizens”. He added that its implementation would begin with an amnesty to allow those who were living here unregistered to apply for the new white and green ID cards.
Reaction to ruling National Unity Party’s (UBP) ratification of their immigration bill came swiftly from left-wing opposition parties, who warned that its implementation would lead to the creation of “tens of thousands” of new citizens from Turkey. “Around 25,000 [mainland Turks] are waiting for citizenship, and the issuing of white ID cards will lead to another 100,000 applications,” said Nicosia ‘deputy’ Ozdil Nami. He added: “After a certain amount of time, they too will become full citizens”, because the process of obtaining a white ID card had not been decoupled from the process of obtaining ‘citizenship’.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail yesterday, Nami said he believed that the regulation had not been drawn up by the UBP administration, but by Ankara, and also complained that the regulation had been passed by “by decree”, rather than through discussion with opposition parties. “The UBP might have highlighted that there was a problem with immigration, but the regulation was not designed by them”.
Immigration is already a contentious issue in the north, where regular influxes of people from Turkey since the division of the island in 1974 have led to what many see as its “Turkification”. Even according to ‘official’ figures, indigenous Turkish Cypriots make up less than half of the current de facto population.
Some, like Communal Democracy Party (TDP) leader Mehmet Cakici, yesterday described the regulation as “a deliberate strategy for bringing people here to change the demographic structure”. “According to our calculations, around 30,000 people will be eligible for the white ID cards. Their families will also be eligible to join them here, meaning we will have 100,000 new immigrants on the way to becoming citizens”. The implementation of the regulation will mean the end of the Turkish Cypriot community he said.
Although details of the regulation remain unclear, it is believed that the “green ID card” will be offered to foreign business people investing over 500,000 dollars.
*Mr. Simon Bahceli’s article first appeared in the Cyprus Mail, 29 July 2011.