Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who earlier this month called for a census in the north, was quoted on Wednesday as saying it was time to find out how many people actually live there following new and apparently confusing statistics from the ‘interior minister’.
Yeni Duzen quoted Akinci as saying that the population of the north had been discussed during previous rounds of Cyprus negotiations and he had been given a figure of 220,000, which was recorded as being the official number for the purposes of a federal solution.
Now, the Turkish Cypriot leader said, ‘interior minister’ Aysegul Baybars announced, only some three years later, that the population of the north was in fact 350,000, a figure which Akinci questioned.
“My statements are not to target the government and a ministry. I think that I have to share with the people just like I do during the meetings I hold both with the government and the ministers. I am obliged to remind of what should be done so we can overcome the lack of knowledge on this issue,” he said.
Referring to the Cyprus talks, Akinci said the then ‘interior minister’ gave the negotiating team certain data “and we shared it at the table”.
“The bearers of TRNC identity card… the number of citizens was 220,000. It had been conveyed to us that 190,000 of these were in the country and 30,000 abroad, three to three-and-a-half years ago. Today the interior minister says there are 350,000. Yesterday at the assembly it was said there were 252,000 in the country. The number of 350,000 was given as a total. If this number is correct, there are around 100,000 TRNC citizens who live abroad,” said Akinci.
“Has this number, which was 30,000 three-and-a-half years ago, really reached 100,000 now? If the number which was 220,000 became 350,000, how did this difference come about? Which was the correct one, the 220,000 or the 350,000? With the addition of the persons who are in the country with a permit, it is said that the number is 374,000. The finance minister said 800,000. That is a difference of more than 400,000. Do more than 400,000 persons live without a permit here?”
Akinci then referred to a murder two days ago, suggesting the perpetrators had been third-country nationals. He said “even when you go to any coffee shop, people from third countries, not from Turkey, serve there now. Do not perceive this as racism, but this community should know who, how and why many people live here”.
Baybars, said on Tuesday that according to ‘official’ data, the number of ‘TRNC citizens’ was 252,497m and that if the 121,802 having a ‘valid residents permit’ was added, the total population reached 374,299.
Baybars was responding to criticism from a ‘deputy’ who said different ‘government officials’ were giving different figures, the date when there might be a census was not known and that they were hearing figures as high as 800,000. The ‘deputy’ also said that under the current ‘government’ which took over in 2018, some 3,500 people had been granted ‘citizenship’.
“Population is dynamic,” said Baybars responded.
She said there had been no policy regarding the population in the north for 44 years, that the census in 2011 was only a snapshot of the population on that day, and that from 2009 until now, “no one thought of registering the students”. She said since the current ‘government’ introduced such as policy almost 60,000 third-country nationals had registered as foreign students.
Baybars also said past ‘governments and ‘interior ministers had not counted people older than 60. She did not explain why.
“We saw that TRNC identity numbers were also given to persons who were born in the country but are not TRNC citizens, including Greek Cypriots and Maronites,” she added, but this had now been ended. Baybars also hit back at opposition parties for criticising when they, she said, had given out a record number of ‘citizenships’ over the years.
The population of Turkish Cypriots was 116,000 according to the Republic’s census in 1973. There were 498,511 Greek Cypriots registered under the same census. According to the 2011 census in the Republic there were 659,115 Greek Cypriots from a total population of 839,000. Today Cyprus’ population is estimated at 1.2m.