The cabinet on Wednesday said it would grant Cypriot citizenship on humanitarian grounds to two children with a Greek Cypriot mother and Turkish Cypriot father who had been deprived of one because their paternal grandfather was from Turkey.
According to deputy government spokesperson Niovi Parissinou, cabinet “taking into account humanitarian criteria, decided to grant, by exception, the status of Cypriot citizen to Christos and Theklia-Yesemina Ozturk”.
The family, who live in Liopetri, said last week they had been trying for a long time to acquire IDs for the children. They were both born in the Republic but were not recognised as citizens because their paternal grandparent is from Turkey and arrived in northern Cyprus and thus illegally according to the Cyprus government.
Despite this, their Turkish Cypriot father, who was born in occupied Famagusta, had acquired an ID in 2015. The parents said authorities had told them that the children were not entitled to an ID because they were born before their father acquired his.
After the issue drew widespread attention through an Alpha TV show and a call to President Nicos Anastasiades to help the children, aged nine and 12, acquire Cypriot citizenship, the government said it would look into the issue.
Akel MP Irene Charalambidou, however, said on Wednesday that this matter had been brought to the attention of the interior minister at the beginning of last September, accusing the government of taking advantage of an issue that ought to have been handled discreetly.
Charalambidou, who is the head of the House human rights committee, said she had sent a letter to the interior minister some two months ago, attaching all the necessary documents proving that the children were entitled to what they had asked for.
“I regret to note that two months later, not only did I not receive an answer as committee president, but I see the issue being politically exploited and I am very sorry because we are dealing with two minors,” she said.
According to the law, among those eligible for Cypriot citizenship are people of Cypriot origin, with one or both parents Cypriot citizens.
The case is baffling to many since, irrespective of their father’s heritage, the children were born in the Republic to a Greek Cypriot mother and ought to automatically gain her citizenship.
Well-informed sources told the Cyprus Mail there is “no logic” behind the government’s reluctance to grant these two children citizenship, especially after all the necessary information was submitted to them.
The Cyprus Mail has learned that it was in fact Disy MP Nicos Tornaritis who brought the issue to Charalambidou’s attention in her capacity as head of the relevant House committee, after repeated, unsuccessful attempts to plead with the government on behalf of the family.
The government has not said much about the case, though Interior Minister Nicos Nouris stated earlier in the week that such issues that have to do with the occupation needed to be handled very carefully to avoid setting a precedent.
Director of the president’s office, Petros Demetriou said that such cases are examined on the basis of the Civil Registry Laws of 2002, which states that children whose one or both parents have entered the republic illegally cannot be naturalised.
He said this decision has been implemented since the Turkish invasion because marriages between Turkish nationals and Turkish Cypriots would change the demographic of the Republic if they sought the Cypriot ID. Demetriou also said that the law clearly states that cabinet can decide on such cases if it is deemed that applicants do not fulfil some of the criteria to obtain citizenship.