British bases police have made a number of arrests after officers at the Pergamos and Strovilia crossing points realised that some people had presented fake or invalid Covid-19 test certificates, it emerged on Friday.
According to an announcement from the bases, SBA customs and immigration officials found on three occasions that people crossing between the two sides submitted fake coronavirus test certificates.
Head of SBA Customs and Immigration in Dhekelia, Adam Chatfield, said that despite the fact there were fewer people crossing between the north and the south, Covid-19 had created a whole new challenge for his team.
“We have had three separate cases where a false Covid-19 test has been detected, which is a total of eight certificates,” he said. “Forged Covid certificates are a new type of case for us having only recently been a requirement for travel and as such no case has been through the courts yet but there are two live investigations that are due to appear before the court.”
Chatfield said that if an individual could not provide the correct documentation at the crossing point, they would be refused entry. According to the customs chief, the number of refusals has increased.
“Officers refuse persons entry if they do not meet the current Covid-19 travel restrictions and we have seen an increase in refusals due to lack of a Covid certificate, expired certificates, or because they are neither a legal resident nor hold Cypriot nationality.”
Where an offence is committed, he said, officers will refer the prosecution to SBA police with whom customs work closely to gather the evidence required.
“We have seen a huge decrease in traffic crossing into the SBAs due to the travel restrictions and although there is a lot less traffic, the officers at the checkpoints are carrying out extensive checks on those that are crossing,” Chatfield said.
He added that officers were well trained in detecting forged travel documents and if they suspect they have been presented with forged documents, they conduct checks with the laboratory where the certificate was issued.
The fact however that Covid-19 certificates are not issued in the same way as travel documents, means that detecting a false certificate can be difficult and officers will rely on their questioning and checks to establish the authenticity of the document.