By Constantinos Psillides
A family of Palestinian origin, legally regarded as Greek Cypriot for 64 years was told by immigration that they must now register as Turkish Cypriot despite having no ties to the Turkish Cypriot community.
Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou has slammed immigration, and its head Anny Shakalli in particular for refusing to register a two-year old child as a Greek Cypriot because of an official blunder in 1950.
The report, issued by the Ombudswoman’s office said the child’s father had been trying since October to register his newborn son as a Greek Cypriot citizen but has been refused by immigration, whose officials claim that not only should the child be registered as a Turkish Cypriot, but so should his whole family who now live in Qatar.
Immigration bases its argument, according to the report, on the fact that the child’s great- grandmother was mistakenly registered as a Greek Cypriot in 1950.
The man claims his mother was born in Flasou village in 1950, the daughter of Palestinian refugees fleeing Palestine in 1948 following the beginning of the first Arab-Israeli war. In a meeting the man had with immigration chief Anny Shakalli in 2013, the father was surprised to be told that in the eyes of immigration, his grandmother was not in fact a refugee from Palestine but a Turkish Cypriot.
The father told immigration that his grandparents’ surnames were Arabic, not Turkish but to no avail.
In a reply sent to Savvidou’s office, immigration admitted to making a mistake 64 years ago, by registering the Palestinian baby girl as a Greek Cypriot.
The report said the father accepted a suggestion by an immigration official to register his new son as a Turkish Cypriot because his family is Muslim so he could speed up the process. The report points out that the father received the request by email on June 18, 2013 and responded on June 20. Immigration officials claim that he didn’t reply to their suggestion, which the father refutes by forwarding the email to the Ombudswoman office.
The father has since been asked by immigration to now re-register his whole family as Turkish Cypriot, which he rejects, arguing that it was not fair that his whole family was asked to pay for a mistake immigration made 64 years ago. He told them he had absolutely no ties to the Turkish Cypriot community.
To compound the foul-up, the man and his wife have another son who was registered as a Greek Cypriot three years ago with absolutely no problem.
The father argues that not being able to register his son is damaging him financially, since he cannot issue travel documents for him and has to pay a €20 fine to the Qatari state daily because his son is considered an illegal resident. All other family members are Cypriot citizens, permanently residing in Qatar.
According to the Ombudswoman’s report, since the father refuses to agree to re-registering his whole family as Turkish Cypriots, Shakalli has asked the legal services to clarify whether immigration can proceed unilaterally.
Savvidou said since a substantial amount of time has passed, immigration cannot use their own 64-year-old mistake to justify taking away benefits from people who are already registered as Greek Cypriot citizens of the Republic.
The Ombudswoman also said that when a government department is forced to choose between two legal options, they should always opt for the one which is less burdensome for the people involved.
Savvidou concludes in her report by saying that the family had suffered needless discomfort and that the child should be registered as Greek Cypriot citizen, “since the family has been considered as Greek Cypriot for three generations.” Savvidou adds that the origin of the baby’s great-grandmother was of no consequence since 60 years has passed since the original mistake was made.
She said immigration’s request that the whole family be registered as Turkish Cypriots, was “unreasonable.” Savvidou also raps immigration for not replying to her reports and requests in time.
It should be noted that registering as a Turkish Cypriot or a Greek Cypriot doesn’t affect the status of one’s citizenship overall, since both communities are recognized by the 1960 constitution.