A new bill to restrict taxi drivers from the north offering their services in the south has been submitted to parliament by the transport ministry.

The bill is set to reduce the burden of proof on the state to convict those illegally offering taxi services, which includes taxi drivers registered in the north who currently offer their services in the Republic.

Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades explained the bill to the Cyprus Mail on Friday, saying “the job of a taxi driver is a clearly defined profession. They have specific licences, and there are limits on who has the right to be a taxi driver in the Republic of Cyprus.”

“For this reason, there are standards of quality among taxi drivers in the Republic of Cyprus, and in bringing in this law to tighten restrictions on those illegally offering services, we as the government are working to ensure those standards of quality,” he said.

He explained that while those illegally offering taxi services in the Republic are subject to fines at present, the burden of proof is too high.

“You would have to arrest them there and then, while they are providing the service, to get a conviction. In addition, the passengers had to testify in court that they were indeed being offered a taxi service,” he said.

He added, “you realise how difficult it can be to convince someone, especially a tourist, to testify in court that they took a ride in an illegal taxi.”

The new system, he said, would be “evidence based”.

“For example, someone who arrives at Larnaca airport three times in a day and picks people up on all three occasions can be reasonably assumed to be a taxi driver. If they were spotted by the police and did not have the requisite licence, they could be fined,” he said.

Additionally, under the new law, fines would be able to be issued retroactively, in the same way a speeding ticket can be issued, meaning that there would be no need to stop cars or receive testimonies from passengers.

In addition to the fines handed out on the road, Vafeades said the road transport department would also be trawling the internet looking for websites offering unlicenced taxi services and fining their owners.

Regarding the method by which such fines would be imposed, in that Turkish Cypriot taxi drivers offering their services in the Republic tend to not have addresses in the Republic, he said the government is considering rolling out a system by which fines will be sought at crossing points.

This, he said, would be part of a wider scheme in which fines would also be sought from others leaving Cyprus via the island’s airports and seaports.

Asked about how Turkish Cypriot taxi drivers can become legal in the Republic, he said the only method is to get their licence and vehicle registered in the Republic just as Greek Cypriot taxi drivers.