By Stelios Orphanides and Andria Kades
Transport Minister Marios Demetriades said on Wednesday that the government was considering transferring part of the responsibility for the security at the island’s international airports from the police to private sector companies.
“Most of the responsibility for the security of airports will remain with the police and ultimate responsibility remains with the civil aviation department and the ministry of transport,” Demetriades said in an interview with state radio CyBC. “What is being discussed is assigning some of the security services to a private company”.
Politis daily, which reported the joint transport and justice ministries’ plan on Wednesday, said passengers may have to pay up to €6 to cover the cost of transferring security-line duties to the private sector. Demetriades said that no decision had been made over whether passengers would ultimately be footing the bill.
“An estimation of the cost was made and this doesn’t mean that passengers will be charged for this,” he said. “By relieving some policemen from some duties that are unnecessary, it will let us strengthen security in our airports which is the ultimate goal”.
“If the state has some savings from this story, it can take over the cost. It has not been decided who will be responsible for the costs, there was just a calculation of the maximum amount for the cost per passenger if all the services which can be assigned to a private company are assigned.”
“Our aim as a transport ministry is to keep the airport taxes as low as possible,” and while contacts had already been initiated, the process was still at a very early stage, he added.
Private companies, including Hermes Airports, the company operating the Larnaca and Paphos airports, will have to be approved prior taking over security duties, Demetriades said.
According to Politis, these include control of access to all areas of an airport, pre-boarding and security in all controlled areas, cargo and luggage control, surveillance at strategic points, and commercial security upon request by airlines. In addition, the private sector could assume responsibility for the issue and control of access cards, patrols and planning of prevention of unlawful acts and of action in the event of unlawful activity, the newspaper reported.
Demetriades added that the security services that the private sector can take over are defined by existing regulations and the decision was made after a joint specialist report by the two ministries was evaluated.
Demetriades sought to clarify the services which will be assigned to the private sector had not been decided yet.
According to Politis, police would remain responsible for matters of national security, arrests, preventing criminal activities, stationary guards, patrolling the airport perimeter, response services and neutralising explosive devices.
All European countries but Cyprus and Romania have some of their security services assigned to private companies, he added.
Also in a statement, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said it was unacceptable matters concerning state security made their way to the press.
“Any discussions over these matters are damaging and must be avoided.”
“Our airport security and generally that of the country is the state’s responsibility and it is not being assigned to any company or private sector. Our concern is the continuous improvement of the security levels of the airport and other respective establishments in our country.”