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Turkish Settlers in North Are Still Illegal Aliens - Opinion

turkish settlers cyprusIt's a harsh truth for some, but the thousands of Turkish settlers living in the north are on the island illegally, as hundreds of them found out when they tried to go across the crossing point to worship at Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in Larnaca.

Not only are they here illegally but their presence here contravenes the Geneva Convention's Fourth Protocol, which says: "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies."

The approximately 800 settlers who challenged this reality were turned back at the checkpoint, while 45 Turkish Cypriot residents were allowed to proceed to the mosque. The settlers' plea for freedom of religion does not apply in this case, since they are here illegally.

Although there were loud complaints and the checkpoint was blocked temporarily by a bus driver, there was no violence and no further action after the incident.

On a human level, we could partly sympathise with these people, who are now in a kind of limbo in which their own country has pushed them aside, and their adoptive country rejects them. Still, it cannot be denied that they benefit materially from their residence in the north, and are about to receive their citizenship and in some cases, work permits from Turkish-Cypriot 'authorities'. They will be included in a census that will be carried out in November in the north, making them a de facto part of the overall population.

But with the Turkish-Cypriot community struggling with an 11 percent unemployment rate, the settlers are seen as competition for jobs and resources that the community can ill afford, even with Turkey's financial support.

Strictly speaking, government authorities had the right to arrest these people as illegal aliens and send them back to Turkey via government-controlled port. This of course would have led to a political, if not military, incident in retaliation by Turkey.

It was another reminder that technically, the island is still at war with Turkey, and a further reminder of the urgent need for a peace settlement that handles the issue effectively and reasonably.

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