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British archives show Greek Cypriot ‘agitators’ were monitored in the UK during EOKA struggle

A Greek Cypriot being searched in Cyprus during the EOKA struggle

By Ellen Branagh

BRITISH authorities were secretly monitoring the activities of Greek Cypriots in the UK as the country battled for independence, newly released files have revealed.

Officials monitored individuals as well as groups amid concerns that political “agitators” were intimidating fellow Cypriots to cause unrest in the UK, the files show.

They also reveal suggestions that a group of Cypriots considered carrying out terrorist acts in the UK, but changed their minds; and also include claims that terrorists from Cyprus were given “unprecedented freedom” while in prison in Britain.

The file, which focuses on the activities of Greek Cypriots in the UK between 1956 and 1958, released today at the National Archives in Kew, west London, is one of thousands of documents which were secretly sent back to the UK when former colonies became independent.

It shows that officials even considered deporting certain people back to Cyprus in a bid to restore peace among the Greek Cypriot community.

One letter, dated June 8, 1956 and written from the then Cyprusgovernment commissioner to the Cyprus governor, described how a previously peaceful community had become troubled after the establishment in London of a Greek-Cypriot Brotherhood by Archbishop Makarios.

“Cypriots living in the north are not much affected by this political agitation, but I am afraid that the Cypriots living in Greater London are constantly pestered and confused by political agitators in the pay of the Archbishop,” he wrote.

He said many Cypriots who were “well established” in London and did not want to return to Cyprus had been left feeling threatened.

Scotland Yard had established that a group of people were collecting funds from Cypriots for Greek Cypriot guerrilla group Eoka, he wrote, adding: “..if about half a dozen of these agitators, who are well known to Scotland Yard, were to be deported back to Cyprus immediately, the whole agitation would subside and the community would be left in peace.”

A follow-up memo on June 14, 1956 said the Governor of Cyprus would “not be averse to seeing a number of the worst agitators deported to Cyprus, provided that reasonable justification could be shown in each case”,

saying it would have a “salutory effect on the rest of the Greek Cypriot community in this country.”

The file also included a secret report on Cypriots in the UK by administrative secretary John Reddaway in January 1958, which described how in 1956 a group of Cypriot men had considered terrorist acts in the UK, but decided against it.

“It is known that in 1956, and particularly after the arrival here of young men connected with terrorism in Cyprus, several meetings were held at the offices of the Ethnarchy, 21 Fitzroy Square, London to consider whether it would be advisable or desirable to start terrorist activities in this country with a view to helping the Cypriot national struggle.

“It was finally realised that such activities would influence very unfavourably the position of all Cypriots and that it might create mass unemployment among them and so the idea was abandoned.”

The secret report also documented claims that 20 terrorist prisoners being held in the UK had been transferred from Wormwood Scrubs to Maidstone and Wakefield Prisons amid security concerns.

It was said that at Wormwood Scrubs the men enjoyed “unprecedented freedom for prisoners condemned for acts of terrorism”, including regular weekly visits from family members, as well as separate weekly visits from members of their political groups, and sometimes were receiving visits outside the standards hours.

Tuesday’s files are the sixth tranche of Colonial Administration Records, known as “migrated archives”, to be released by the National Archives.

The Foreign Office only admitted in 2011 that it held some 8,800 files at Hanslope Park in Buckinghamshire which were ”migrated” to Britain from colonies at the time of independence because of their sensitivity.

The files also showed that more than 200 Cypriot soldiers were sent to prison in Egypt after being found guilty of mutiny as campaigners started to fight for union with Greece.

The 208 soldiers were stationed at Polemidhia training centre in Cyprus when they were found guilty of mutiny by court-martial in 1946.

One file, focused on agitators in the Cyprus forces, describes the increasing problem of soldiers being led astray by “agitators” who enlisted purely to cause problems and spread propaganda.

One memo, dated November 1945, refers to the “disposal of Cypriot ‘undesirables’, describing the importance of holding court martials for them, and if there is not enough evidence against them, posting them to a different unit.

A memo in January 1946 described the movement of 208 Cypriot soldiers found guilty of mutiny to Almaza in Egypt to serve their sentences. (PA)

 



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