By Jean Christou
Police have extended security precautions at all crossings they said on Tuesday as eyewitnesses spoke of lengthy queues and procedures at checkpoints.
One eyewitness at the Ledra Street crossing told the Cyprus Mail that foreigners crossing north, and those returning, were having their passports scanned. Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots using Republic of Cyprus ID cards were not being registered, the eyewitness said.
“Apart from airports and ports where we already took extra measures, we have applied extra measures to the crossing points,” police spokesman Andreas Angelides told the Cyprus Mail. He confirmed that the additional measures were related to the Paris terrorist attack on January 7 “even though there has been no specific threat” here.
“It’s part of the general precautions being taken,” Angelides said. “There is no imminent threat or knowledge of a threat.”
Angelides said the additional measures applied to people crossing both ways and said extra police had been deployed at the crossings.
“There are extra police everywhere, not just the checkpoints,” he said. “The entire force’s personnel will be utilised for better controls.”
Angelides said he could not outline what the extra measures were for security reasons and would not confirm if passports were being scanned and registered. “I can’t say anything else,” he said. The new measures would be in place for as long as necessary, he added. “All measures are precautionary.”
Normally when someone crosses from the south of the island to the north they are not checked and are free to just walk across. Returning, they may occasionally be asked to show their passports or ID but nothing is registered by police at the crossing points.
Scanning identification would likely be a precaution in case of a terrorist threat or attack in the south of the island in the event the perpetrator or perpetrators fled to the north. Police would then have a record of their movements.
Nicosia Divisional Commander Demetris Demetriou confirmed that passports were being scanned. He told the Cyprus Mail that the extra police presence at the crossings was to help avoid long queues.
Demetriou said the Turkish Cypriot side had implemented similar additional measures, though police in the north already registered everyone who crossed in both directions.