|Friday, 22 February 2019|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-07-02
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Thursday, July 2, 1998
 What shall we do with the boat people?By Hamza Hendawi
ITS TRACK RECORD on immigration issues less than exemplary, Cyprus now faces the unenviable task of deciding how to deal with a boatload of Arabs and Africans whose vessel was brought to Limassol on Monday after drifting for days without water or food.
The dilemma facing the government is multi-tiered.
Cyprus does not have a law that deals specifically with political asylum and must walk a tightrope in addressing legitimate security, economic and social concerns, while adopting a humanitarian approach to a highly sensitive issue.
Whatever course of action it takes to deal with the Rida Allah passengers will be closely scrutinised by human right groups at home and abroad, as well as by its future partners in the 15-nation EU.
"We shall return them to their countries if they so wish," said Akel Deputy Yiannakis Agapiou, who is also a member of the House's Human Rights Committee.
"We shall have problems with those who don't want to return to their homes."
"But if they're political refugees, we have to be very careful, otherwise we will be considered as accessories to what might happen to them in their countries," Agapiou, a lawyer, told the Cyprus Mail last night from his Limassol office.
"Cyprus does not have the resources of, say, EU countries to play the role of a land of hope and promise," said another House deputy, Prodromos Prodromou of Disy, the senior partner in President Glafcos Clerides' coalition government. "We don't have the land to absorb waves of immigration, but there exists a political will to legislate for foreign workers and asylum seekers."
"We need to modernise our laws in this respect and to harmonise them with the rest of Europe," said Prodromou, who also sits on the Human Rights Committee, which has recently recommended to the House that the government be asked to present a draft bill on asylum seekers.
Agapiou said a private bill could not be presented because any law on asylum would entail additional government spending on such areas as legal aid, housing and income support for asylum seekers awaiting final ruling on their cases. "Only the government can do this," he said.
Cyprus has signed and ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights, except for the document's "protocol 7" which gives asylum seekers the right to challenge expulsion orders in a court of law.
The task facing the 109 passengers who arrived aboard the ramshackle Rida Allah appears more formidable than the government's -- how to convince an already sceptical Cyprus that they must be allowed to stay on the island or to travel on to a third country, preferably wealthy and European.
Survivors who spoke to the Cyprus Mail in the Limassol hotel where authorities have kept them under armed police guard had no wish to return to their home countries. Some spoke of persecution and possible imprisonment if they were to return, others simply said they would rather not.
Having paid thousands of dollars to middlemen in places such as Sudan, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon in return for passage to Greece or Italy, a trip back home, even at the expense of the Cypriot tax payer, is not a prospect they relish.
Already, hints of what may be in store for Cypriot authorities when they begin sifting through the flood of information from the Rida Allah passengers are surfacing.
A young black African, for example, told the Cyprus Mail on Tuesday that he came from the relatively wealthy North African Arab state of Libya, but was unable to speak a word of Arabic. Another black African passenger claimed to be from the southern Sudanese capital of Juba but, again, did not speak the heavily Arabised dialect known as "Juba Arabic" spoken there.
Arab passengers spoke of trumped-up charges carrying long jail terms or even execution awaiting them at home or persecution by authorities for activities they did not specify.
The Rida Allah, a battered 22-metre-long wooden trawler, drifted in the eastern Mediterranean for nine days before it was spotted by a Ukrainian ship, which rescued it and towed it to Limassol. Its passengers, who survived without water and food for days, come from places as diverse and far afield as Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Iraq, Syria and Bangladesh.
None had travelling documents when the vessel was rescued.
The government, in its first detailed reaction to the Rida Allah affair, yesterday sought to project itself in a sympathetic light.
Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides told reporters that the government would issue travel documents for the passengers, and that none of them, mostly males in their early 20s and 30s, had asked for asylum. The right to asylum, he added, would be given "where relevant conditions applied."
The question of foreign workers, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers is extremely sensitive to Cypriots, many of whom are ambivalent or outright resentful about the presence of foreigners on the island.
"We must deal with these passengers (of the Rida Allah) in a humane manner, but we must not give the impression that everyone who comes here can have food and clothes and a job," said Diko House Deputy Marios Matsakis.
"My responsibility as an MP is to think of the people of Cyprus. My personal opinion is to give them humanitarian assistance and send them back to where they set off from," said the outspoken Matsakis.
"We have our problems and we cannot solve the problems of other people too, " said Agapiou, the Akel deputy. "I appeal to the government that the decision it takes must be a political one and not one taken by a bureaucrat."
 Ecstasy and despair at UN headquartersBy Charlie Charalambous
TUESDAY night's dramatic England v Argentina World Cup clash produced a passionate football spectacle on the field and an historic opportunity off it.
British and Argentine UN peacekeepers forgot their traditional rivalries and sat side-by-side to watch the crucial game at UN HQ in Nicosia.
The off-duty British and Argentinean troops who watched the game together are all members of the 105-strong Multinational Mobile Force Reserve, a rapid deployment unit within Unficyp.
But although the British and Argentineans are use to watching each others backs on patrol, they made their allegiances clear during the emotionally- charged World Cup game.
There was no room for losers when David Batty's missed penalty put Argentina into the quarter-finals, but the winning side tried not to gloat beyond the call of duty.
"One side was less happy than the other, but that's the name of the game. And nobody was trying to change the referee's decisions after the game," a UN source said.
"It was a very jovial atmosphere. The English took the defeat remarkably well, but obviously the Argentineans were ecstatic when their team won," said second lieutenant Martin Camp of the 19 Regiment Royal Artillery.
Despite England's agonising defeat in the penalty shoot-out, the British soldiers managed to summon up the strength to face their victorious colleagues.
"It was business as usual at the observation posts this morning. They are professional soldiers, no matter how sad or joyous the occasion," the UN source said.
While English fans have gained a "lager lout" reputation in France, the troops in Cyprus were trying to redress the balance.
"All the English and Scottish guys shook hands with the Argentineans, it was a great match and extremely friendly... we all had a few beers off-duty together," said Lance bombardier Kevin Murray.
Although both sets of troops handled victory and defeat with equal aplomb, there was no escaping who the bad guy was.
"To be honest, David Beckham lost the game for England," said Murray.
Manchester United's David Beckham was sent off at the start of the second- half for aiming a kick at Argentine captain Diego Simeone.
 Minsters object to bill curtailing planning relaxationsTHE GOVERNMENT objects to a bill that would limit ministers' power to issue Town Planning relaxations, the House interior Committee heard yesterday.
Despite this, the House demands the establishment of tight regulations so that relaxations can be dealt with through a legal process.
The bill was presented to the House by Akel deputy Andreas Christou and Diko deputy Tassos Papadopoulos, and discussed by the Interior Committee yesterday.
Christou explained that the proposal's aim was to force the government speedily to enforce regulations that would establish a legal procedure for the granting of relaxations in a fair and equal manner.
Papadopoulos added that the bill aimed to remove the cabinet's power of intervention, so that ministers would be barred from overturning decisions by the Town Planning Department or making decisions that conflicted with those of Town Planning.
The bill will not stop building relaxations, but rather set criteria and limits for their granting, and establish a channel of communication so that the House is informed on a regular basis on the granting of such relaxations.
Christou claimed that in the past similar applications had been treated differently, "and it is for this reason that we demand the urgent and just enforcement of the law and the establishment of transparent regulations."
Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides rejected allegations that the cabinet was in the habit of granting unjustified relaxations and voiced his opposition to the Bill.
"We oppose the introduction of regulations as suggested by the House," he said, "but we are in favour of defined criteria for Town Planning relaxations and the better briefing of the House."
The Committee will continue examining the matter in the new parliamentary session in October.
 House fury at allegations of police malpracticeBy Andrea Sophocleous
A LIVELY discussion on prostitution and organised crime raised many questions, along with tempers, at yesterday's House Ad-hoc Committee on Crime.
The Committee heard allegations that a senior police office in cahoots with gambling club and cabaret owners and often seen in the company of cabaret artistes had been promoted while the officer who questioned his professionalism had been transferred to another post, in order to "stop causing trouble".
The allegations were made by the police officer who had been transferred, Stelios Parpas, who told the Committee that high ranking Larnaca officer Andreas Minas had turned a blind eye to illegal gambling and was repeatedly seen by other officers picking up artistes outside cabarets in the early hours of the morning.
On one occasion, Minas was involved in a car accident while driving a police car in which he was accompanied by a Romanian artiste. He abandoned the scene, and the accident was ignored.
Parpas also claims to have in his possession a video tape and four photos allegedly showing Minas in compromising situations. The video shows Minas leaving an apartment with a bar owner and two "bar maids", while the photos showed the same group in an unregistered car.
The main point of contention was the whereabouts of a detailed report on Minas' dealings and on crime in Larnaca in general, that Parpas presented to Justice and Public Order Minister Nicos Koshis ten months ago. Instead of the report being used to launch an investigation, it was found by CID men in the apartment of a woman, Iliana Angeli, who had been arrested for stabbing her boyfriend.
This revelation caused dismay and infuriated deputies, with committee chairman Marcos Kyprianou stating that Koshis would be summoned to attend the committee's next session to explain how a report handed to his office had ended up in this woman's house. "The matter must be investigated," Kyprianou shouted, and Akel deputy Kikis Yiangou demanded that the Attorney- general initiate an investigation.
An internal investigation was begun by police last month, after Parpas first presented his allegations to the House.
The Committee was also briefed by the Immigration department on immigration regulations regarding artistes and the department's efforts to deal with the matter of prostitution in relation to organised crime.
Chief of Immigration Christodoulos Nicolaides informed deputies that foreign artistes were brought into the country through 15 legally established agents. These agents are granted operating licences by the Interior Ministry and act as middle-men between cabarets and artistes.
Artistes are given six-month working visas, while night club singers get a nine-month visa. After their visa expires, they must leave the island before applying for a renewal of their work permit. Artistes who have worked in Cyprus are scrupulously checked, according to Nicolaides, and not given permission to return - even as tourists - unless their reasons are deemed important. Reasons cited included marriage and health.
Nicolaides revealed that there were 1,200 foreign artistes currently employed in cabarets and 600 bar maids.
Deputies were particularly concerned that artistes who complained of mistreatment at the hands of their employers and of being forced into prostitution were deported as soon as their cases appeared in court.
The Immigration chief informed the committee that artistes in such situations were given a licence to work in another bar while police investigated the allegations. After the case goes to court, the artiste is deported.
Kikis Yiangou argued that this practice worked in favour of pimps, as artistes would not report cases of forcible prostitution out of fear of being deported.
The committee will reconsider the issue in two weeks' time.
 New police chief sworn inBy Elias Hazou
ANDREAS Angelides, a former senior counsel of the Republic, was sworn in yesterday as the new chief of police.
He succeeds Panicos Hadjiloizou, who retired after 38 years of service in the force.
During a ceremony at the Presidential Palace, President Glafcos Clerides urged Angelides to "impose discipline, meritocracy and effective action against organised crime".
Angelides pledged to do his best to prove worthy of the President's and the people's expectations, and to create a police force which would be the "guardian of order and security and will protect all citizens".
He added that no outside interference would be tolerated, referring especially to meddling by political parties.
After the Presidential Palace, Angelides went to Police Headquarters to take over from Hadjiloizou.
Angelides is the first Police Chief to be appointed from outside the force, though he did served as a policeman during the 1960s.
He will take over a force made up of 5,000 men and women.
Born at Kato Drys village in 1942, Angelides was a member of the Eoka movement from 1955 to 1959. He was wounded and jailed by the British.
In 1962, he joined the police force, serving until 1965, when he went to Britain to study law.
In 1969, he returned to Cyprus to practise, and in 1974 was appointed legal assistant at the Attorney-general's office. Angelides became a senior counsel of the Republic in 1976, and on a number of occasions, served as acting Attorney-General.
Angelides, who retires in four years, is married and has three children.
His appointment comes at a time when the police force is under fire for incompetence and corruption.
 Government hails Richardson commentsTHE GOVERNMENT yesterday expressed its satisfaction at statements made by the US ambassador to the UN regarding the recent resolutions on Cyprus.
Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said the government was "pleased with the comments by Ambassador Bill Richardson, since they back the UN resolutions and the fresh effort to break the current deadlock."
In his statements, Richardson backed the resolutions and called on the Turkish side to cooperate with the UN in its efforts to find a settlement.
He also noted that the resolution clearly expressed the position of the UN Security Council members, and backed up UN Special Advisor on Cyprus Diego Cordovez's new attempts to break the deadlock.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash was, however, somewhat less impressed with the resolutions. According to Turkish press reports yesterday, he complained about the second resolution, which called on all countries to respect the island's sovereignty and independence, saying that the Security Council was acting "as if there was a legitimate government of Cyprus representing the whole island".
The continuation of dialogue on the island depended on political equality between the two sides, he added.
Referring to the first resolution, which renewed Unficyp's mandate until the end of the year, Denktash said that from now on the UN forces could remain on the island only within the framework and with the approval of the "TRNC government".
Denktash is set to meet with Cordovez later today. The envoy arrives this afternoon, and will first meet with President Glafcos Clerides.
He will give a press conference on Saturday.
 Airline presents strategic plan to CabinetBy Jean Christou
CYPRUS Airways (CY) yesterday delivered its strategic plan for the year 2000 to the Council of Ministers.
And CY Chairman Takis Kyriakides said after yesterday's Cabinet meeting that the plan would go to the House for discussion next Monday.
He said the strategic plan would then immediately be given to the unions, and a dialogue opened to discuss the issues it raised.
The controversial plan, the contents of which have been leaked to the press, provides for staff reductions of up to 700 people, wage cuts of around 10 per cent and other radical means of increasing the productivity of the troubled airline.
CY, which employs close to 2,000 people, has already announced a voluntary redundancy plan to lay off surplus staff.
Hundreds left under a similar scheme in the early 'nineties but all have since been replaced.
So far, CY's biggest union Cynika has rejected the plan out of hand, while pilots have said they are willing to discuss it if the airline gives it to their union.
Pilots say the company is targeting their high wages as the source of the airline's financial woes, but believe the strategic plan actually highlights major shortcomings in management practices as well.
Kyriakides refused yesterday to answer questions relating to CY's current difficulties, but said the strategic plan was the way forward for the company.
He said the Council of Ministers had been fully informed of the plan and that all questions would be answered at a later date.
Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said the Cabinet would study the plan carefully and that all the parties concerned would be consulted.
The Cyprus Airways Group loss in 1997 was £4 million, compared to losses of £5.2 million in 1996.
 Oslo meeting wraps up with call for contacts to resumeBy Jean Christou
THE SECOND meeting of the joint group of Greek, Turkish and Cypriot businessmen ended in Oslo yesterday with a call for bicommunal contacts to be resumed.
The group met under the auspices of former Cyprus US presidential emissary Richard Holbrooke, who chaired the first such meeting in Brussels in November last year.
The group was made up of Greek and Turkish Cypriot businessmen as well as colleagues from their respective motherlands.
A final statement yesterday said it had been agreed that what was most important at present was how the two sides on the island could maintain contact.
"This includes steps to relax and eventually lift all restrictions on the free movement of people, goods and services, and to increase contacts; such steps should be encouraged by the political authorities on both sides," the statement said.
Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash cancelled all bicommunal contacts in December last year after the EU Luxembourg decision to open accession talks with Cyprus.
The Oslo meeting agreed to push forward initiatives taken in Brussels relating to joint projects.
These include the joint restoration of historical monuments, starting with Apostolos Andreas in occupied Karpasia and the Hala Sultan Tekke mosque in Larnaca.
Other plans include the improvement of telecommunications between the two sides; 20 automated phone lines have been recently installed.
A joint waste disposal project is also on the cards, as well as joint business ventures and sports tournaments.
"While the participants urged that the (broader political) negotiations move forward, we believe that contacts and projects of the sort outlined between the two sides can progress independently, and are of the utmost importance in reducing tensions and increasing mutual understanding," the statement said.
"We will work to persuade the political leadership on both sides to support these initiatives."
Speaking from Oslo, Greek Cypriot businessman Constantinos Lordos told the Cyprus Mail that the atmosphere at the two-day meeting had been good.
"There was a good rapport and everyone was constructive," he said, but added that there had been fewer participants than in Brussels last year.
The next meeting of the businessman's group will take place in Istanbul in November.
 Police find stash of knives at teenagers' apartmentsFIVE British teenagers have been re-remanded for the knife attack on a 17- year-old Cypriot after police found a stash of illegal knives.
The five youths, all aged under 18, and a 32-year old Cypriot, Pavlos Anastasis, are being kept in custody for a further two days after police discovered five banned knives at the apartments where they were staying.
Police told a Larnaca court they would check finger prints and carry out DNA tests on the weapons before deciding on charges.
The victim of the attack is said to be making a good recovery following surgery on a stab wound in the back last week.
Police believe the youth was attacked simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The assault took place in Larnaca's Laiki Yitonia last Friday morning.
 Galanos movement plans founding meeting for SaturdayBy Athena Karsera
THE MOVEMENT of Eurodemocratic Renewal (KEA) is to hold its founding meeting on Saturday, July 4.
The movement was formed after February's presidential elections by Diko rebel Alexis Galanos. Galanos had opposed his party's decision to back George Iacovou as presidential candidate, standing as an independent in the first round and backing incumbent President Glafcos Clerides in the second.
Saturday's meeting is being held to enable the new movement to approve its formal statute and to outline its policy. KEA will also elect its President and other officials.
Galanos, who is the acting President of KEA, told a press conference yesterday that July 4, besides being the USA's Independence Day, was also a "day of independence for all people who believe in the intentions and goals of the Movement".
Galanos said between 300 and 350 people would take part in the conference, adding the movement boasted a total membership of almost 1,000.
He emphasised that KEA would for now remain a political movement, and not a political party, even though its structure would resemble that of a party.
"We are not after power, but a change of mentality, and a renewal, and to affect the way of thinking that exists in the political arena today, as well as the relationships between party leaders and supporters."
Asked about KEA's stance towards the government, Galanos said it was one of support, but that this did not mean the movement would refrain from constructive criticism.
Saturday's meeting will be addressed by President Clerides.
 Orange pickers sweeping roadsA LICENSE to pick oranges does not give you the right to sweep the sides of the highway -- especially when it has expired.
Eleven Egyptians found that out the hard way as they were remanded in custody for five days by a Larnaca district court yesterday.
the Egyptians had been arrested on Tuesday after being discovered cleaning the sides of the highway between Aradippou and Dhekelia.
Their employers, Panicos and George Kareklas, aged 50 and 48 respectively, yesterday pleaded guilty to charges of employing foreign workers without a license.
Officer Loukas Kyriakou said one of the employers was with the suspects at the time of the arrests.
Kyriakou added that the suspects had arrived on the island at different times during 1997 and early 1998 and that all except one, whose permission to stay expired yesterday, should have left the country by now.
Police have not ruled out the possibility that the Egyptians may be part of a broader organised ring of illegal workers in Cyprus.
 Metal workers stage warning strikeWORKERS in the metal industry yesterday staged a 24-hour warning strike to protest against employers' refusal to consider wage increases.
The move came after a ten-day notice.
Some 6,000 workers laid down their tools in a strike that could escalate into a drawn-out standoff between employees and employers.
According to the metal workers, their demands for wage hikes are justified by the high productivity levels achieved by the industry. They blame the employers for the current impasse.
But the employers for their part claim they cannot afford any pay rises at the present time.
With both sides unwilling to yield, a deadlock seems likely. An indefinite strike in the metal industry would have a serious knock-on effect on construction, an important sector of the economy.
 Captain of Cyprus ship to face Singapore courtBy Andy Georgiades
THE CAPTAIN of a Cyprus-flagged ship involved in Singapore's worst oil spill will face one charge tomorrow before a Singapore court.
According to reports in the Lloyd's List newspaper, Michael Chalkitis, the Greek master of the tanker Evoikos, has given new evidence to the Singapore Attorney-General.
On October 15 last year, the Evoikos collided with the Thai vessel, Orapin Global, a ship twice its size, spilling 29,000 tons of oil into the waters around Singapore. It was the region's largest spill ever, and required a massive clean-up operation.
The master of the Orapin Global, Captain Jan Sokolowski, last Tuesday admitted before the Singapore Subordinate Court to one charge of negligent navigation and another of failing to proceed at a safe speed.
Sokolowski will be sentenced tomorrow.
His ship was travelling westbound in the eastbound lanes as it tried to pass another ship. "It was dangerous for the Orapin Global to remain in the eastbound lane travelling against the flow of traffic with an oncoming vessel in the deepwater route," Lloyds quoted prosecutor Wong Keen Wen as saying.
According to Singapore officials, both ships were told they were on a collision course six minutes before they struck each other, and each ship acknowledged this warning by radio.
The Evoikos had only been registered under the Cyprus flag one year before the collision took place. It was owned by the Zebra-Sky company and had been chartered by Metro Trading International, a Greek firm.
It is alleged that Chalkitis, as master of the "give way" vessel, failed to take the necessary evasive actions. He faces the charge of breach of duty under the Merchant Shipping Act. A conviction would draw a maximum of two years in jail and/or $50,000 fine.
 What a scorcherTHE SCORCHING temperatures that have settled over the island during the past few days are set to continue into the foreseeable future, the Meteorological department said yesterday.
Director Cleanthis Philaniotis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday that average temperatures for July were around 35 or 36 degrees, but that the current heat wave had seen them rise above this by three or four degrees.
This had been the case for the past few years, he added. Last July saw Cyprus racked by scalding heat, offset by relatively cool weather in August - the coolest August since 1977.
Philaniotis said the meteorological department could only predict forecasts for the next three or four days, in which the temperature looks set to remain steady around the 40 degree mark.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998