A DELEGATION from the Committee on Petitions of the European Parliament visited the perimeter of the fenced area of Varosha, Famagusta on Tuesday, but was not allowed to enter the abandoned, derelict town by the occupation army.
Waiting for the MEPs at the Constantia hotel, just outside the fenced area, were some Famagustans, voicing their wish to return to their town. They were confronted by a dozen or so Grey Wolves, waving Turkish and ‘TRNC’ flags.
After the gathering, the chairwoman of the committee Cecilia Wilkstrom told refugees that she was trying to look at any small step forward to help them but said she could not make any promises. “I cannot give you any hope, but what I can promise is that the European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions takes seriously the situation with regard to Famagusta and is trying to look at any possible small step forward,” she said.
Her committee will prepare a report with its experience of the visit and its suggestions.
The same committee with different members visited Varosha in November 2007 and published a report, raising the issue of the return of the town to its lawful inhabitants. A similar report will be issued again this time. Hundreds of reports and resolutions calling for the return of the ghost town which has been empty since August 1974 have been issued over the decades.
Although there had been talk of its return since the early eighties, it has never happened, the Turkish military holding on to it as a bargaining chip. The Turkish line is that it will be returned to its lawful inhabitants when there is a settlement.
What happens if there is no settlement, which is looking increasingly likely? Perhaps it will be returned if there is a negotiated partition but when this will happen – if it ever happens – nobody knows. Meanwhile its lawful inhabitants are gradually perishing, having never had the opportunity to return to their town even as visitors, in contrast to the refugees from other parts of the occupied area.
That the Turkish military have allowed a once thriving town to go to ruin, keeping it a human-free zone for 44 years, beggars belief. As does the fact that in 2004 there were Famagustans who voted against the Annan plan that would have allowed them to return to their town. It would have been a thriving seaside town by now if it had not been for the resounding ‘no’ to a settlement.
Perhaps Famagustans may have finally realised that they will never return to their town without a settlement. Any thought the Turks would give it back as a confidence-building measure is beyond naïve, no matter how many positive reports the European Parliament writes.