The Turkish Cypriot authorities on Wednesday threatened to reciprocate the government’s planned clampdown on Turkish Cypriot taxis operating in the Republic.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, ‘government’ sources in the north said, “whatever restrictions are made to Turkish Cypriot registered taxis or buses, any public transportation vehicle, the same restrictions will be applied to the Greek Cypriot registered [vehicles in the north].”

Reacting to the clampdown, the north’s ‘transport ministry’ said “we will take the necessary measures within the principles of reciprocity, according to the steps to be taken by the Greek Cypriot administration.”

They added that they were to be holding meetings with representatives of the north’s taxi sector and that they are “following up on the issue”.

The government had announced on Friday plans to effectively reduce the burden of proof to fine unlicensed taxi drivers, with Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades explaining to the Cyprus Mail that should the new legislation pass, fines can be levied based off an “evidence-based” system.

“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.

Turkish Cypriot drivers, given that their vehicles and licences are registered in the north and not in the Republic, are classed by the Republic as “unlicensed” taxi drivers.

However, they have been able to operate in the Republic by covering the “T” on their registration plate – characteristic of commercial passenger vehicles in the north – and the fact that in the Republic, fines can currently only be levied against unlicensed taxi drivers should their passengers testify.

On Tuesday, Famagusta Taxi Drivers’ Association chairman Muhammet Biberoglu described the planned change to the law as “officially racism.

“Greek Cypriot taxi drivers do not want passengers to be transported from North Cyprus to South Cyprus in taxis. They want to do this themselves because they want to earn money themselves,” he said.

Biberoglu announced that taxi drivers’ unions across the north are to unite into one federation, with the aim of overcoming the various problems they face, and “determining a common plan of action”.

The federation will be known as the Cyprus Turkish Taxi Associations’ Federation, and the relevant paperwork for its formation has been sent to the north’s ‘interior ministry’.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail on Wednesday, Alexis Vafeades stressed that the bill “was not drafted to target Turkish Cypriots, but to deal with all unlicensed taxi drivers on the island”.

“We intercept and fine many Greek Cypriots for offering taxi services without the requisite licences,” he said.

He added that should Turkish Cypriot taxi drivers wish to raise the issues they are facing with the government, “they, just as any citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, can contact us and speak with us. We are always ready to help our citizens,” he said.

To this end, he said Turkish Cypriot taxi drivers are “welcome” to go through the same process as Greek Cypriot taxi drivers to become licensed in the Republic of Cyprus, and that he is conscious of potential delays in the system at the Road Transport Department at the moment.

He added that with this in mind, despite media reports of disquiet, “no Turkish Cypriot taxi driver or group there have made any contact with us about this issue.”