The number of applications to the immovable property commission (IPC) concerning the fenced area of Varosha have grown massively since the beginning of last year, reports said on Monday.

According to statements by the head of the IPC Novber Ferit Vechi the number of applications concerning properties in Varosha has risen from 280 in February last year, to 338 when part of the fenced area opened in October 2020, to 410 today.

In an interview with the TC news agency published in media in the north, Vechi said most applications concern the demand for return to the fenced area of Varosha.

The committee is now examining how many of these applications concern the 3.5 per cent of the fenced Varosha area that opened this year. Vechi said that some of the applications do not concern only property within Varosha but elsewhere as well, so it takes time to identify them.

Turkish Cypriot authorities announced in the summer that 3.5 per cent of the fenced area would be demilitarised and open for settlement and called on property owners to file their claims to the IPC. The area is adjacent to the open, inhabited part of Varosha.

Vechi said that since the establishment of the committee to-date 6,999 applications have been received, 1,301 of which have been completed. The amount paid for compensation for properties is around 325.4m sterling pounds, she said.

Asked about how restitution of property is implemented, she said restitution presupposes that the said property is not used by someone in the north or by someone whose return will not endanger “national and public security”. She also said the people whose property has been returned have all rights within the framework of the north’s ‘laws’.

Vechi also noted that besides those who want to build a house and settle down, there are also those who want to sell their property. In such cases, the interested parties can turn to the IPC for the sale procedure. To-date, she added, 24 applications have been made to the IPC, 12 of which have been completed while permission for the sale of property has been granted for eight.

The committee, set up by Turkey in the north as a domestic remedy for claims of Greek Cypriots and others owning properties in the northern part of the island, began its activities in 2006. It examines claims for restitution, compensation and exchange of property.

Many Greek Cypriot refugees, however, have taken Turkey to the European Court of Human Rights over long delays in the IPC’s procedures citing ineffectiveness of this domestic remedy.

Vechi said she only assumed her duties recently and would not like to comment on the work of the IPC’s previous administration. She also said that due to the pandemic the IPC had suspended its work for a long time and, in tandem with the extension of the process of appointing a new chairperson, its operation was negatively affected.