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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-08-14

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, August 14, 1998


  • [01] Pledge to examine all asylum applications
  • [02] Tourism set to be the 1998 economic 'viagra'
  • [03] Three more die of heat as temperatures set to rise again
  • [04] Water levels down to 10 per cent
  • [05] Turks jailed for illegal entry
  • [06] Drug tourists escape jail
  • [07] Limassol parish says bishopric sold its land
  • [08] A Frenchman cares

  • [01] Pledge to examine all asylum applications

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE GOVERNMENT has promised that it will not repatriate any more of the boat people holed up in a Limassol hotel until after the UNHCR has examined all their asylum applications.

    "The government has given assurances to the UNHCR that these people will not be returned until a final decision has been taken on their cases," the UNHCR said in a statement released in Nicosia yesterday.

    The agency said it was examining asylum applications from 111 of the boat people rescued from a Syrian-flagged fishing boat found drifting off Cyprus on June 29. A number of the African and Arab survivors have already been sent home.

    On Wednesday, police clashed with protesting boat people amid fears more survivors were to be sent away.

    The number of police guarding the Pefkos hotel, where the boat people have been put up by the state, was increased yesterday and an uneasy calm has returned to the hotel.

    Government officials again denied there were any plans to deport boat people.

    The UNHCR, which has sent an official to examine the boat people's claims that they face persecution in their home countries, said it was looking at 56 appeals against its earlier decision not to accord refugee status and at 55 fresh applications.

    "The UNHCR is grateful to the government of Cyprus and local communities in Limassol for providing accommodation and food to all asylum seekers awaiting decisions on their claims," the agency's statement read.

    The UN refugee agency is responsible for determining refugee status in Cyprus since the island has no asylum law to govern procedures to deal with such cases.

    Those recognised as refugees would be submitted for settlement to a third country, the UNHCR said.

    Friday, August 14, 1998

    [02] Tourism set to be the 1998 economic 'viagra'

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE ECONOMY is on course to expand by the officially forecast 4.5 per cent this year, but economists say the 1998 recovery hinges on tourism meeting targets, and caution that it is not big enough to offset the impact of two years of anaemic growth.

    "What we are witnessing is a partial recovery in the economy, but it is by no means a boom," said a senior government economist, who spoke to the Cyprus Mail yesterday on condition of anonymity. "You must look at GDP growth in medium-term. This year's growth looks good, but it is not all that good when it follows two years in which our potential growth was not achieved."

    The economy grew by 2.0 per cent and 2.3 per cent in 1996 and 1997 respectively, well below the average growth rate of 4.4 per cent recorded in the five-year period 1991-1995, according to the Central Bank.

    "I believe that given the current circumstances, the economy will grow by 4.5 per cent this year. Tourism is doing very well, notwithstanding all the talk about the missiles," said the government economist.

    He was referring to the arrival on the island later this year of Russian- made, anti-aircraft S-300 missiles. Turkey has vowed to prevent their deployment by any means, including military action, arguing that they pose a threat to its own security.

    Tourism, the mainstay of the island's economy and its biggest single employer, is forecast to grow by five to 10 per cent in 1998. It must meet that target if the economy is to expand by the forecast 4.5 per cent, given the decline, stagnation or slow growth in several other sectors of the economy.

    The vital tourism industry, however, appears well on course to meet that growth target, but economists caution that any serious escalation of tension on the divided island and the negative media coverage it would almost certainly trigger could scare away tourists en masse.

    The missiles, whose arrival would provide the spark for any potential escalation, are due on the island in November, i.e after the peak tourism months of July, August and September.

    The number of total arrivals on the island reached 302,931 in June, an increase of 14.5 per cent over June 1997. Of those who arrived in June, 248, 426 were tourists, according to the Finance Ministry's Department of Statistics and Research.

    But the gloom and doom of the agriculture, manufacturing and construction sectors lead other economists to project a GDP growth this year of two to three per cent.

    Yiannos Tirkides, chief economist at the Popular Bank, is one of them.

    "I stand by my projection of growth of two to three per cent," he told the Mail. "I cannot be optimistic. The picture is not all that encouraging. A three per cent growth will be good. "

    Tirkides argued that analysis of the figures for arrivals in the January- May period suggests that tourism recorded an increase of four per cent year- on-year, but said the busy June-September period was likely to revise that figure up.

    However, he stressed that his lower GDP growth estimate arose in part from the depression witnessed by manufacturing, construction and agriculture. "I don't see any of these sectors growing," he said.

    The government economist agrees that the three sectors were in serious trouble. Construction, he explained, was a vital indicator since its long- term orientation meant that any growth there invariably reflected confidence in the economy, something which is clearly missing at present.

    "It is the one sector that is responding very slowly to the recovery. It is recording a negative growth, but it is less negative than that of 1997."

    Agriculture, he said, would grow by a meagre five per cent in 1998, hardly enough to compensate for a decline of up to 20 per cent in 1997 due to the persistent drought.

    Manufacturing is showing signs of slow recovery, particularly in the food sector due to increased demand from the tourism sector.

    Foreign trade figures for the January-May period released this week provides something of a respite from the bad news, with the trade deficit registering only a marginal increase to reach 513.1 million from 509.6 million in 1997, despite the steep decline in agricultural exports.

    The adoption by the House earlier this month of a one per cent hike in the defence levy will bring the treasury about 40 million and reduce the fiscal deficit which is now, according to the Popular Bank's Tirkides, set to hit 6.5 per cent of GDP rather than the seven per cent previously forecast.

    The government is also expected further to reduce the deficit when, as expected, it proposes to deputies in October a one per cent increase in VAT from its current eight per cent. That would net the treasury 40 to 50 million.

    Friday, August 14, 1998

    [03] Three more die of heat as temperatures set to rise again

    By Athena Karsera

    THREE more people have died because of the heat, bringing the total number of deaths in the last week to almost 60, it was reported yesterday.

    Health Minister Christos Solomis said the three elderly victims had died in the previous 48 hours, and had all been in hospital since the first days of the recent heatwave.

    Temperatures are expected to rise again today.

    The Meteorological Service reported yesterday that although the heat had subsided slightly in the last few days, thermometers were again likely to rise above 40 degrees Celsius. The high temperatures are predicted to last until Tuesday.

    According to Eleni Hadjigeorgiou, First Meteorological Officer, these temperatures, though higher than normal, do not constitute a heatwave: "It will not be like last weekend."

    She added that weather charts from European Centres, and Germany in particular, showed that conditions would improve after Monday, and that humidity levels were expected to be lower than last week, because of westerly winds.

    This week's slightly cooler days, although a relief from the recent heatwave, still saw higher than normal temperatures, often reaching 38 degrees Celsius inland and 34 degrees on the coast.

    Sixty, mostly elderly, people have died in heat-related incidents since last Friday.

    According to Welfare Department Officer, Evanthia Papasavva, most of the deceased lived alone: "These people had no one to look after them, no one to take them a glass of water, or to get them to the doctor on time."

    No deaths were reported in state retirement homes during the heatwave, but two people died of heat-related causes in private homes.

    Papasavva said none of the elderly people regularly visited by the Welfare Service had been killed by the heat, and added that orders had been given for social workers to visit more elderly people living on their own: "We have told our visitors to check on the elderly people that may be living on their own near those people we regularly visit."

    Papasavva called for children and neighbours of the elderly to take special care of them, especially if another heatwave strikes. "We are doing everything we can, but our staff and volunteers cannot be everywhere at once," she said.

    Solomis yesterday played down calls for the health service to be placed on full alert, but did confirm that extra beds had been taken to several hospitals.

    "We must not worry about anything," the minister reassured.

    Friday, August 14, 1998

    [04] Water levels down to 10 per cent

    WATER levels have fallen to 10 per cent of total capacity of the dams, figures released yesterday showed, prompting fears that if it does not rain in the Autumn, water supplies will run out by the end of the year.

    Figures from this time last year showed water levels of 16.4 per cent.

    This year, the Asprokremmos Dam holds just 24 per cent of its total capacity, and the Evretou dam 15.1 per cent. Kouris Dam, the island's largest, is only 5.1 per cent full.

    But the recent heatwave is not to blame for these low levels: according to Water Development Department Acting Director, Christos Markoulis, it did not last long enough to cause significant evaporation of water reserves.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous last week reported that the government was taking measures to solve the water problem, including plans for the introduction of mobile desalination plants.

    Meanwhile, the Union of Hoteliers in Larnaca has complained that its establishments are often forced to go without water for up to two days.

    According to Union president Photis Adonis, hotels had predicted the problem, and contacted the Mayor of Larnaca before the tourist season began. No action was taken, they say.

    Adonis said it was strange that only Larnaca suffered to such an extent, though he admitted that all areas were going through a water crisis.

    "The amount of water supplied to us," he said, "only covers one third of our needs, we have to get water from private sources."

    Adonis added that although tourists were warned about the water problem as soon as they arrived, tour agents had been threatening to move their customers to other resorts.

    He said the Union was in constant contact with the Ministry of Agriculture, and that the minister had promised to provide more water to the area.

    Friday, August 14, 1998

    [05] Turks jailed for illegal entry

    A LARNACA court yesterday sentenced two Turkish nationals to one month in prison for illegally entering the Republic of Cyprus.

    Haci Barut and Enver Salicu, both 29 and residents of Ankara, were also charged with illegal possession of duty-free goods. Barut was further charged with driving an unregistered vehicle without a valid license or insurance. The car carried unrecognised 'TRNC' licence plates.

    The two had arrived on the island on August 10 through the occupied port of Kyrenia.

    Police sources said that the two had been arrested on the Pyla-Larnaca road for various traffic violations and for illegal entry into the Republic of Cyprus. Following a search of their hired car, police found a number of duty-free items, including perfumes, cosmetics and cigarettes, believed to have been purchased in the occupied areas.

    The court ruled that the two Turks would be deported to Turkey, probably via Greece, once their prison term was up.

    In passing sentence, Judge Marios Georgiou noted the severity of the crime, calling it "a threat to the security of the Republic of Cyprus."

    He did not accept the defendants' claim that they had lost their way, since they would have first had to go through a checkpoint before entering the buffer-zone village of Pyla.

    Friday, August 14, 1998

    [06] Drug tourists escape jail

    By Charlie Charalambous

    FIVE British tourists arrested on drug trafficking charges escaped a jail sentence yesterday when fined a total of 2,200, but the judge warned other UK holidaymakers that Cyprus was not a drug-taking paradise.

    The tourists from Hackney, east London, pleaded guilty to 35 charges of possession, importation, supply and use of a cocktail of drugs, including cocaine, ecstasy tablets and cannabis.

    "I think they were very lucky not to go to jail," said their lawyer, Andreas Mathikolonis, after the Assizes court decision.

    Under Cyprus law, drug trafficking carries a maximum prison sentence of 14 years, and possession seven years.

    Warehouse manager Geoffrey Girling, 26, was fined 400, pub manager Martin Parish, 25, was fined 100 (for use only), printer Paul Cunningham, 24, was fined 500, student Joseph Xenophontos, 23, was fined 500, and florist Jonathan Wisbey, 23, was fined 700.

    Wisbey was fined the most for importing and possessing 14 ecstasy tablets, 8 grammes of cannabis and 2 grammes of cocaine.

    Xenophontos pleaded guilty to importing and possessing six grammes of cocaine, Cunningham to 12 grammes of cocaine and Girling nine grammes of cannabis.

    They were arrested last week after police found a stash of drugs hidden in shoes, packets of biscuits and kitchen drawers in their Ayia Napa hotel room.

    Although lawyers viewed the court's decision as relatively lenient, judge Marios Georgiou gave a stern warning to other British holidaymakers who thought that Cyprus was soft on drugs.

    "We need to send a message to the outside world that use of drugs in Cyprus is not allowed and the government must be partly to blame for allowing a small village like Ayia Napa to have so many bars and night clubs.

    "There is an atmosphere there, which creates the wrong impression that Ayia Napa is a place where drugs are tolerated," said Assizes judge Georgiou.

    When the tourists left the court in Larnaca they were visibly relieved, hugging and patting each other on the back.

    "I was expecting the worse, I was expecting at least six months," said Wisbey afterwards.

    Cunningham said: "I was told I could go to prison, but I'm very happy how it's turned out."

    "We've had a good result," said Xenophontos afterwards.

    Two other British tourists were brought before the Assizes court yesterday after being arrested on drugs charges in Ayia Napa.

    British tourist Colin Rich, 20, from Manchester, pleaded guilty to receiving five grammes of hashish in the post and was fined 280, and James Robb, 20, from Birmingham, pleaded guilty to possessing 0.09 grammes of cannabis in his wash bag and was fined 230.

    Friday, August 14, 1998

    [07] Limassol parish says bishopric sold its land

    A LIMASSOL parish church committee has filed a written complaint to Justice Minister Nicos Koshis, claiming that a large tract of its land was transferred by the Limassol bishopric without its approval.

    According to the committee, some 20 acres were sold to the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) towards the end of 1997 for around 1.4 million without its approval. The transaction, it claims, should have been co- signed by its chairman, but instead was signed by the Limassol bishopric's accountant.

    Investigations are under way to determine whether the transaction was in any way illegal.

    The committee told Koshis that the money from the sale had been paid by the EAC, but it was not known into which account it had gone.

    The Limassol bishopric has lately drawn the media's attention as a multitude of allegations on its bishop's shady business activities have surfaced.

    Investigations into Bishop Chrysanthos' financial dealings have slowed down while a number of high-ranking public officials are on their annual mid- August leave.

    But police sources confirmed that bank-client confidentiality would be lifted, and the bishop's foreign accounts would be accessed.

    Friday, August 14, 1998

    [08] A Frenchman cares

    By Martin Hellicar

    A FRENCH musician is to begin a 24-hour one-man anti-occupation protest at the Dherynia check-point at midday today.

    "It is about the fact that I love Cyprus," 44-year-old Paris resident Michel Maillard told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    "I married a woman from Famagusta, and we want to be able to go there together," he added.

    "It has been 24 years since the invasion, so I said to myself it might be good to stay 24 hours in Dherynia to show that a Frenchman cares."

    The 24-hour vigil begins on the eve of the 24th anniversary of the second phase of the Turkish invasion.

    Maillard's protest also coincides with the second anniversary of the death of Solomos Solomou, gunned down by Turkish soldiers as he climbed a flag- pole in the Dherynia buffer-zone to tear down a Turkish flag. Three days earlier, Solomou's cousin Tassos Isaac had been beaten to death by Turks in the same area during an anti-occupation protest.

    Maillard is to camp out just a stone's throw from the scene of the killings.

    He said braving the scorching heat in Famagusta was part of his campaign to inform people about the Cyprus problem.

    "I am involved in the effort to inform French people that something is wrong in Cyprus."

    "Some Cypriots don't want to tell people about the Cyprus problem because they want to tell tourists there is no problem in Cyprus," he charged.

    The Paris artist has nothing good to say about the French government's policy on Cyprus. "Last year I saw (French President Jacques) Chirac trying to stop Cyprus getting into Europe and working hard to fit Turkey with Europe," Maillard said. "In Cyprus we can see that Turkey is not a European country because they try to maintain a situation with weapons, they do something by force and say it is right, like a gangster."

    But he insists he is not anti-Turkish.

    "People say I am pro-Greek because I married a Greek, but I don't want to be fanatical, I am not nationalistic, I know the Turkish Cypriots are in the same predicament," he said.

    "Everything is about human beings, not about Greeks or Turks."

    Maillard is hoping he will be joined in his protest by the relatives of the missing, whose Ledra Palace demonstrations he has supported in the past.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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