Thousands of Greek Cypriots crossed to the north over the holiday weekend that marked the island’s 1960 independence in what Turkish Cypriot media described on Tuesday as ‘a stampede’, particularly on Monday, the official holiday when drivers were waiting on average two hours to cross.
According to Bayrak, Turkish Cypriot ‘interior minister’ Ayşegül Baybars said there were as many as 14,000 crossings from north to south at the weekend, which was seven times the normal 2,000 or so.
Other reports from the north said the ‘ministry of tourism’, announced that since August, crossings from the south of the island had risen almost 28 per cent and that there had been one million crossings over the past three months.
Baybars said the increase had caused some logistical problems and congestion. The Turkish Cypriot side had already opened a third lane on the north side of the Ayios Dhometios checkpoint in mid-September but even this was proving to be inadequate.
Baybars said there were also not enough people working the crossing and added that another 20 positions had been opened. She also said they that they were planning to expand the existing roads by using different check-in booths.
She also said that although there had been suggestions that checks should stop altogether, and this had been discussed by the ‘cabinet’, it was concluded that it would be a negative move for security.
Greek Cypriots have been crossing in their droves, especially at weekends, since the fall in the Turkish lira by around 70 per cent since the start of the year, packing into supermarkets and spending on petrol, cigarettes and medicines.
Because Turkish Cypriots have seen their standard of living fall dramatically, they say said they need the custom and have been pressing Turkish Cypriot authorities to improve the situation at the crossings.