FEARS are growing that “tens of thousands” of mainland Turkish immigrants could be granted ‘citizenship’ of the north if amendments to the breakaway state’s immigration law are approved.

“If the law is amended in the way being proposed…it would mean the end of the Turkish Cypriot community,” Head of the Democratic Communal Party (TDP) Mehmet Cakici has warned. He added that he would oppose the amendment domestically, but would take the issue onto the “international arena” if necessary.

“We will oppose the deliberate transfer of population. Apart from those who marry a Cypriot, have Cypriot ancestry or were born here, we oppose the granting of citizenship. The left wing Cakici warned however that many marriages between Turkish Cypriots and Turkish mainlanders were “marriages of convenience”, undertaken simply to gain ‘citizenship’ of the breakaway state.

Because the majority of Turkish Cypriots are also Cypriot and EU citizens, marrying a Turkish Cypriot gains mainlanders access to the government-controlled areas and the EU in general.

Caciki called on Turkish Cypriots to “stand together, as they did in mass demonstrations earlier this year”, to oppose the proposed amendments.

On Monday arguments continued in ‘parliament’ over who should be granted citizenship. One idea currently under consideration is the granting of ‘white ID cards’ to mainland Turkish workers who have resided in Cyprus for more than five years. This form of ID would give immigrants rights of residency and the right to vote in municipal elections. It would however stop short of full citizenship.

However, many in the ruling National Unity Party (UBP) believe that this would deprive immigrants of their rights. Also proposed in the draft immigration law now under discussion is an amnesty for illegal immigrants to allow them to register with the authorities and continue working ‘legally’. Opposition parties warn that such an amnesty could begin “a dangerous process” that would lead to a new wave of mass immigration from Turkey.

Interior ‘minister’ Nazim Cavusoglu pledged at Monday’s meeting to take “public sensitivities” into account before presenting a final draft of the law to ‘parliament’.

“We will try to devise a law that will not cause problems for the people of the TRNC,” he said, adding that the main aim was to end the “random and off the record” way that workers could gain employment in the north. He stressed his belief however that the ‘white ID’ cards would be the best way to address the concerns of indigenous Turkish Cypriots while taking into account the rights of foreigners who have lived in Cyprus for many years. He also sought to convince opposition parties that an amnesty on illegal immigration and employment would be the only way to regularise those still operating off the record.

“There have been five amnesties in the past, and people need to know there is no other motive to them than getting people into the system”. Cavusoglu refused to be drawn on how many people were likely to be granted ‘white ID cards’, saying that until a final draft of the law was produced, he was not able to say. He added that the law needed to remove anomalies in the citizenship was that currently allowed immigrants to apply for full citizenship after five years, and for ‘white ID’ partial citizenship after ten.

Others in the ruling UBP, such as deputy Ahmet Zengin, argue that “internationally recognised norms” should be taken into account when deciding on amendments to the law. This, he said, would “protect the rights” of immigrant workers.

“These people have to be given their rights. It could lead to a big rush of applications, but in what way is that the fault of these citizens?” he said adding that giving immigrants who had fulfilled immigration requirements ‘white ID’ cards that would not allow them to take part in ‘parliamentary’ or ‘presidential’ elections was “an injustice”.

Opposition Republican Turkish Party (CTP) deputy Abbas Sinay however attacked plans to allow more immigration and naturalisation of mainland Turks by saying that introducing a new law on immigration to the north while negotiations to reunite the island were ongoing would only weaken the hand of the Turkish Cypriot side. He warned also of the impact new ‘citizens’ would have on a referendum if one is held to decide the future of Cyprus, and added that if ‘white IDs’ were to be given to immigrants, they should be given on the basis that they were not a stepping stone to full citizenship.

Sinay said his and other Turkish Cypriots’ fears of further mass immigration stemmed not only from economic concerns but also from sensitivities about “culture and identity”.

According to recently published Cyprus government statistics, there are just under 90,000 indigenous Turkish Cypriots on Cyprus. Turkish Cypriot statistics put the figure at around 130,000.

Source: Cyprus Mail

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