The government intends to recalibrate its policy on refugees so that any state assistance to these people would be based primarily on loss of use of their property in the north, interior minister Constantinos Petrides said on Tuesday.
From 1974 to the present, Petrides said, the state’s refugee policy has focused on housing programmes.
“The current administration plans to change that, but we should all realise that the state cannot wave a magic wand and fully compensate people for loss of use of their property,” he told MPs and representatives of refugee organisations.
Citing official statistics, Petrides said there are approximately 151,000 Greek Cypriots who own property in the north. The total surface area of these properties is about 2.5 billion donums.
The new policy would also look at which people have so far benefited from state assistance, he noted.
Petrides promised that soon the Agency for Equal Distribution of Burdens would update and complete its registry of refugees, allowing the government to formulate a ‘targeted policy’.
A public-law entity, the Agency for Equal Distribution of Burdens began operating in 1995.
The agency operates a scheme for the restoration of the pre-war solvency of owners whose immovable property in Cyprus is in the occupied areas. Through the scheme, loans and guarantees for loans are granted to entitled persons for specific purposes.
At the moment, the state spends some €70m annually on housing schemes for refugees, plus another €30m granted via the Agency for Equal Distribution of Burdens.
For her part, Akel MP Skevi Koukouma cited a 2009 study by the University of Cyprus that estimated the value of loss of use of property – at 2009 prices – at €7bn. Loss of access to property was calculated at €16bn.
The study also estimated the total value of Greek Cypriot properties in the north at €82.1bn.
Discussion in parliament is set to resume in the autumn, when the refugees registry is expected to be completed.