Recent extra police checks at crossing points are aimed at crime prevention and not at discouraging anyone from travelling to the north, police insisted on Thursday.
In recent days police at checkpoints have been examining cars and scrutinising Greek Cypriots with ID cards on their way to the north when usually any such checks are carried out on their way back in an attempt to detect smuggling.
While those using passports to cross at the Ledra St pedestrian crossing point are routinely checked, those using Cyprus ID cards are usually waved through. Passports and IDs of visitors to the north are not usually inspected by Greek Cypriot police at drive-through checkpoints.
But police on Thursday said that nothing had changed in the regulations governing the crossing points.
Deputy police spokesman, Stelios Stylianou, told the Cyprus Mail that the extra checks were not a permanent measure and were aimed at crime prevention following tip-offs.
“From time to time, there are increased checks due to assessed information,” Stylianou said.
He added that in such cases the inspections are carried out not only at crossings but also at other points of entry.
The increased checks, he said, are solely aimed at crime prevention.
Increased examinations at crossing points in the government-controlled areas last week and at the beginning of this week have been widely criticised by those crossing over who have complained of long lines and delays.
Pro reunification group UniteCyprusNow (UCN) censured authorities this week for the extra checks asking whether these were intended to discourage Greek Cypriots from travelling to the north.
In a statement titled ‘Stop intimidating people who want to cross!’ the group said this was the first time “such checks have been introduced in such a rigorous and organised manner since crossing points were first opened in 2003, following what seems to be a policy change by the Republic of Cyprus authorities, who now appear to be of the opinion that there are internal borders in Cyprus.”
But Stylianou insisted that the increased checks had nothing to do with discouraging anyone from crossing to the north.