The government will outsource part of airport security to the private sector, MPs heard on Thursday, in a move expected to save the state some €650,000 per year.
However, it was not clear who would be footing the bill for the private security.
“Our preference is for the cost to be paid by the state, which will save money through the reduced number of police officers needed in airports,” Transport Minister Marios Demetriades told the House Transport Committee.
The other option is transferring the cost to passengers through higher airport fees, something the government does not favour.
“The aim of the effort is to raise the level of security at our airports and I believe it is something we all agree on,” Demetriades said.
A private security firm will take over seven of nine security areas currently handled by police. This will free some 110 officers, the committee heard.
The private company will take over security relating to access in controlled areas, passenger and luggage checks, personnel checks, cargo, post, supplies, vehicles, and patrols in restricted areas.
Police will continue to be responsible for guarding aircraft and airport areas.
Demetriades said the project, expected to be fully rolled out by the end of the year, is based on a study prepared by the Civil Aviation Department in co-operation with the police.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the study showed what almost all European countries have been doing for years.
“The cost to the state would be smaller than the officers’ salaries,” he said.
Some of the extra officers would be posted to passport control, an area where delays have been experienced repeatedly.
But MPs voiced reservations over the claim that the scheme would be to the interest of the state and would provide better security.
Transport Committee chairman, DIKO MP Antonis Antoniou, said they have asked the ministers to submit the study and the cabinet decision.
AKEL MP Andreas Fakontis said his party disagreed with the decision and was also worried that the cost would eventually be transferred to passengers, making Cyprus an even more expensive destination.
AKEL had proposed hiring staff and giving the responsibility for security to Civil Aviation. The government disagreed, Fakontis said, arguing that the private sector can provide better services than what the public sector can.
EDEK also voiced concern over the possibility of the cost being footed by passengers.