The number of Greek Cypriots crossing to the north by car since the beginning of the year has risen 81 per cent due to the fall in the Turkish lira, the Turkish Cypriot press reported on Monday.
At the same time, cash-strapped Turkish Cypriots have reduced their visits to the south of the island by 14 per cent.
Kibris newspaper said that since the fall of the lira by around 70 per cent since the start of the year the Greek Cypriots have “discovered northern Cyprus to do their shopping” while at the same time, Turkish Cypriots were shopping less.
Most money spent by Turkish Cypriots in the government-controlled areas since the crossings first opened in 2003, has been on shopping, mainly groceries.
But since the lira crisis, the situation has reversed. Turkish Cypriots have seen a dramatic fall in their standard of living that has also resulted in a number of protests on the streets. On Friday irate farmers who said they were on the brink of bankruptcy, tried to cross at the Ledra Palace demanding the Turkish Cypriot side adopted the euro. They were held off from crossing by Turkish Cypriot police using tear gas.
But the crisis has proved to be a boon for Greek Cypriots visiting the north who pack into large supermarkets, and spend on petrol, cigarettes and medicines.
The constant flow to the north at the Ayios Dhometios crossing has seen waiting times increase to at least 30 minutes per vehicle, and last week the Turkish Cypriot side said they would be drawing up a proposal of measures to resolve traffic congestion issues at their end of the checkpoint. Turkish Cypriot ‘transport minister’ Tolga Atakan visited the crossing last week and said a third lane could be opened to ease the congestion in the short term.
Turkish Cypriot newspaper Diyalog reported on Monday that Greek Cypriots were being made to wait an inordinate time crossing into the north due to the lack of booths and space “while at the same time the Turkish Cypriots complain that they have gone bankrupt and that they need money to overcome the crisis”.
“Almost in torture, Greek Cypriots arriving massively to buy fuel, medicines and cheap clothes are being subjected to the Dhometios border gate,” the newspaper noted.
It added that there were strong reactions to the fact that the police at the crossing did not yet receive the promised help, despite the fact that authorities know that there are even longer queues at the weekends.