BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It seems the invaders who have occupied Cyprus for 45 years are not satisfied with the damage they have wrought and have (perhaps unintentionally) embarked on a path that is making life more difficult for people both north and south of the infamous Green Line that separates the Turkish-occupied northern part of the island from the Republic of Cyprus proper.
I encountered an article about migrants, mostly focused on those from Africa, in occupied northern Cyprus. A little bit of online fishing turned up some more items on the topic of refugees and migrants on the island, overall. At first, I was left with a sense of competing media campaigns between the north and south, Turks and Greeks, but I’m now of the mind that there’s a serious problem afoot, caused by the north. The refugees leaving Syria further complicate the matter.
The Republic of Cyprus (i.e. the legitimate state, the Greek part of the island) is saturated with refugees, with the highest ratio of refugees to local population in all of Europe. It is attractive to refugees fleeing their homes because it is part of Europe. Therefore, once in, moving to other parts of Europe is a little bit easier. The north is a trap in this respect. There was one piece from 2015 that made it seem like the south was shirking its duties from a refugee-receiving perspective, but the later items seem to indicate this is no longer an issue.
The situation in the north has an additional, policy-rooted, cause, not just the plight of desperate people fleeing Syria, Nigeria, Cameroon, and other war-torn places. The Turkish Cypriot government decided, in the 1990s, to establish international universities as a sneaky way of luring unsuspecting youth to make money for the illegitimate state. Quickly, students from various struggling countries in Africa and Asia sought the tried-and-true path of education to liberation. But many, if not most, of those students are now finding themselves stuck in an international no man’s land that doesn’t want them. The local Turks have come to resent and abuse, even on occasion kill, their “guests”. Meanwhile, recruiters sent from northern Cyprus to “source” countries continue to tout the non-existent virtues of getting an education there, luring ever more unsuspecting youth.
Unsurprisingly, many of these students are now heading south to get into the real Cyprus as a first step in getting to the European mainland. Of course this exacerbates the refugee situation in the Greek portion of the island. Many of these youth, with no means of income and with refugee services overtaxed, end up having to sleep in the streets (or worse). Also unsurprising is the complicity of the Turks in worsening this situation. In late June, Cyprus’ interior minister, Constantinos Petrides, accused Turkey and Turkish Cypriots of helping to traffick migrants to the internationally recognized part of the island. He told state radio it’s “now certain” that a mass influx of migrants is arriving by aircraft to the north from Turkey.
This is just one more example of the abuse heaped by Turkey and unscrupulous Turks upon unfortunate victims of strife in Syria and elsewhere. It is one more arrow in the information quiver that we can use to discredit Turkey’s current policies and government among Western states, at least in the eyes of the public, if not their often cynical, Turkey-coddling leaders. It may even be useful in Moscow, though I suspect the Russians are acutely aware of Turkey’s gamesmanship and are exploiting the opportunity presented by these times of strained Turkey-Europe and Turkey-U.S. relations.
When next you speak to a congressmember, neighbor, or co-worker about Turkey’s heinousness, use the latest Cyprus refugee situation, nothing but another form of human trafficking, as another example of perfidy.