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Our View: Opening of crossing points as much of a mess as the closures were

A Turkish Cypriot worker crossing over at Ayios Dhometios on Tuesday (Christos Theodorides)

Cyprus reopened its airports on Tuesday as part of a controlled plan to allow passengers back in from abroad.

It’s a welcome move for the tourism industry even though it will take a little time to establish whether it was premature or not given that a huge number of Covid cases were people who had come from abroad, even up until Monday this week.

At the same time, the situation regarding the reopening of crossings is shaping up to be as big of a botched job as the decisions taken to close them when the outbreak began more than three months ago, with each side taking its own unilateral actions and creating confusion for people in both communities.

Over the period that has passed since, thousands of Turkish Cypriots have been out of work and remain so even though the Greek Cypriot side has now opened up for them.  Fourteen people crossed on Tuesday, only eight of them workers, which was a far cry from the number of 15,000 cited by a group representing the Turkish Cypriot workers.

Some of those who crossed brought bedding and planned to sleep in their cars until July 1 when the ‘government’ in the north says it will lift its 14-day quarantine requirement. That is how desperate they are to go back to work.

This absurd situation is a result of muscle-flexing by the north’s ‘government’.

The UN called on the leaders earlier last month to agree jointly on how the crossings would reopen, and they did agree on May 21 on what those first steps would be.

Workers, students, people with health issues, Maronites and Greek Cypriots living in the north could cross with the required health certificate. As of Tuesday, they can cross but they can’t go back.

Although Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci believes the scientific data on both sides is positive, ‘deputy prime minister’ Kudret Ozersay seems hell bent on virtue signalling and trying to wrest control of the situation from Akinci.

On top of that, the ‘government’ in the north has not actually produced its scientific data. The bicommunal committee on health is still waiting for that, they said on Tuesday. The committee is due to meet again so that the leaders can evaluate the next step of reopening but, without the data, they can’t do that.

Caught in the middle of all the wrangling are thousands of workers who face another two weeks without working.

President Nicos Anastasiades meanwhile is “following the developments”, is “concerned” and “will not remain inactive”, according to his spokesman.  Let’s see if he will turn those words into action.

The Cyprus government has shelled out millions to accommodate its citizens and residents who were repatriated during the crisis and put them up in hotels. Are Turkish Cypriots not also citizens with a right to seek help from the government whose passports they hold?

We’re pretty sure there are some empty hotels in old Nicosia.


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