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New checks to be made on gypsy incomers
in The Cyprus Weekly, April 6-12, 2001

by Demetra Molyva

As the influx of gypsies from the occupied areas continues, the government is taking steps to ensure that they are Cypriots. A total of 155 gypsies, believed to be Turkish Cypriot, have crossed over to the government-controlled areas since the beginning of March. Many of them are now living in various Paphos villages.

Yesterday 18 gypsies, including nine men, four women and five children aged from one to 39, and claiming to be Morphou residents, turned up at Peristerona police station and were taken to a detention centre near the prison in Nicosia.

Another wave of 29 gypsies, including children, who were found in Peristerona village earlier this week are under police guard in the Crown Hotel in Nicosia until their identities are confirmed, Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said.

After the emergency meeting at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, Christodoulou said: "After the decision taken at the Presidential Palace we no longer know if the influx of gypsies will continue since they will know that they will not be treated like tourists." Plans to house the last wave of gypsies at an emergency detention centre in Kotsiatis near the capital's main rubbish dump were scrapped after complaints from local residents, the minister added. Christodoulou said a new location for the gypsies would be found by next Monday and if more arrived in the meantime, they would be housed at a place near the Central Prison which had been set up to deal with the recent arrival of illegal immigrants.

PROOF

The gypsies will have to prove that they are Cypriot citizens before they are given all the welfare benefits and treated as such, he added. Gypsies found to be Turkish settlers will be deported and other non-Cypriots will be sent back across the ceasefire line, according to Christodoulou. There is growing suspicion the gypsies are not Turkish Cypriots and Justice Minister Nicos Koshis suggested they could be unwanted Turkish immigrants or spies sent from Ankara. Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou earlier this week said that so far there is no evidence to suggest they are Turkish agents. "Just because they have a different culture and a different standard of living does not mean we can discriminate against them, especially at a time we are fighting to unite our country," said Papapetrou. Labor Minister Andreas Moushouttas did not rule out that the gypsies had come over to claim state benefits and return to the occupied areas.

ESCAPE

According to Moushouttas, this happened a year or so ago when a wave of gypsies came over and then returned to the occupied areas. The gypsies claim they come over to the government-controlled areas to escape the economic problems of the Turkish Cypriot regime. "Unfortunately, our previous experience has shown us they are not willing to work," Moushouttas said. He added the government had given the head of each family CYP 150 plus CYP 50 for each dependent child and that each family would receive an average of CYP 375, including some additional benefits "allowing each family to live with dignity," said Moushouttas.

Paphos residents raised objections to re-housing the gypsies in their area fearing there may be a criminal element among them. Local MPs described the "flood of gypsies" into Paphos as a grave matter of "national security" and accused the government of behaving irresponsibly and creating conditions of instability. Government sources earlier said the influx of gypsies was a ploy by Turkish Cypriot Rauf Denktash to create social unrest and prove that Greek Cypriots cannot be trusted.


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