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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-07

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


March 7, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Airline wants Immigration to pay for 'racist' deportation
  • [02] Germans wanted baby to die in peace in the north
  • [03] Warder in court over 'Al Capone jail-break plot'
  • [04] Athens woman 'had drugs in suitcase'
  • [05] Turkish Cypriots barred from UN gathering
  • [06] Gangsters beware: Murder Inc. (Cyprus) is on the case
  • [07] Waiter! There's a fly in my goat

  • [01] Airline wants Immigration to pay for 'racist' deportation

    By Anthony O. Miller

    CYPRUS Airways wants the Immigration Department to pay the cost of deporting - and then returning - two Senegalese men they inexplicably barred from entry at Larnaca Airport.

    The two had arrived to attend a conference at the Hilton Hotel in Nicosia.

    "Someone gave us orders to take them out of the country, and the same person gave us orders to bring them (back). So it was their mistake - and they have to pay," airline spokesman Tassos Angelis told The Sunday Mail.

    Immigration Department chief Christodoulos Nicolaides is likely to be the target of the reimbursement request.

    The cost "depends on the ticket, of course," he said, adding that a special round-trip Larnaca-London ticket now costs 158, while a one-way ticket costs 169.

    "I don't know the rate for deportees..." Angelis said.

    The airline put both men's two one-way tickets on its own company account, as it sympathised with their predicament at the Immigration checkpoint, Angelis said - despite the fact they had the cash on them to have paid.

    Ultimately this proved wise, as the two were eventually allowed into the country.

    Abdou Khadre Diop and El Hadji Malick Sakho are computer engineers from Dakar, sent to Cyprus by their company for a three-day training seminar at the Hilton.

    When they arrived at Larnaca, confrontational Immigration officers demanded to see round-trip tickets, proof of hotel reservations, cash in their wallets, their written invitation to attend the conference, and other documents.

    Despite seeing all the relevant paperwork, and confirming that the two had Hilton reservations, the Immigration officers still refused to admit them. Instead of asking their immediate supervisor, they contacted Christodoulos Nicolaides, the island's top Migration Officer, for a decision.

    Nicolaides decided that Diop and Sakho should be deported to London on the next plane out.

    During the two men's ordeal at Immigration, Cyprus Airways delayed its 6pm London flight for 50 minutes while trying to plead their case with Immigration - but to no avail.

    "They (Immigration) wouldn't give us a permit to take off unless we deported these people. We were ordered to put them on the plane and take them back to London... so we had to do it," Angelis said.

    While Diop and Sakho were being flown back to London, Lenia Iacovides, head of sales for Gateway Partners, Nicosia sponsor of the conference, persuaded the Immigration authorities to reverse the deportation order and allow them to enter Cyprus.

    When the pair arrived in London they were told not to leave, and were issued a 24-hour visa, put up in a hotel, and then flown aboard Cyprus Airways - again free - back to Larnaca the next day. They arrived at 4pm, 24 hours after their initial welcome to Cyprus. But this time they were allowed in.

    Diop and Sakho have no doubts about why they were treated in this way: "Because we are black."

    THE FULL STORY

    THE TROUBLE began at Larnaca Airport's immigration desks.

    Agdou Khadre Diop, 25, had never been in an airliner before, and neither he nor El Hadji Malick Sakho, 33, had ever visited Cyprus. Their flight from Dakar in Senegal would be an adventure.

    It was some 16 hours before they touched down last Monday at 4pm in Larnaca. Eagerness had turned to fatigue. Now, as they walked down the steps from their Cyprus Airways Airbus, their thoughts turned to a hot shower, a change of clothes, a meal, and sleep.

    All that separated them from their taxi to Nicosia's Hilton Hotel was collecting their luggage - and passing through Immigration and Customs. Neither expected what awaited them.

    Lenia Iacovides is the sales manager for Gateway Partners SEMEA. From her Nicosia office, she oversees Gateway Partners' sales in Southern Europe, the Middle East and Africa for US-based Gateway Computers, a giant in the computer world.

    Back in Dakar, Diop and Sakho work on the technical side for one of Iacovides' distributors, System Plus. Diop is a computer engineer, while Sakho manages all computer maintenance operations for System Plus.

    As the two men walked through the arrivals hall towards the row of Immigration Police desks at Larnaca Airport, they carried an invitation to a computer conference at the Hilton Hotel. It was typed on Gateway Partners' letterhead stationery and was signed by Iacovides. It was her conference.

    Each man had a round-trip ticket to Dakar aboard Air France, and Hilton reservations for Monday night until Friday morning, all courtesy of Iacovides. System Plus had given them $870 each for other expenses. Their flight home left on Saturday.

    As Cyprus has no embassy or consulate in Senegal, the British Embassy there handles the Republic's consular affairs. So the seal of the "British Embassy, Dakar" was on the three-month Cyprus visitor visas stamped in Diop's and Sakho's Senegalese passports. The visas were issued on February 24 and good until May 24.

    "We came to the Cyprus airport with all our papers, good visas and... money. Immigration asked us: 'Where are you going?'" Sakho said. "We showed them all our papers, and said the Hilton Hotel.

    "And they said: 'You can't go to the Hilton Hotel.' We asked why. They said: 'You cannot pay.' We said 'See, we have money to pay," said Sakho, adding they showed the police their cash.

    "They asked us how long we were going to stay in Cyprus. We said just seven days," Diop said. "They told us it's a five-star hotel, and with our $870, we cannot pay" for a week there.

    Somehow the two men persuaded the Immigration Police to phone the Hilton and confirm they had reservations there. But then "they said we haven't paid the hotel reservations yet".

    The pair explained that Iacovides' Gateway Partners was paying their hotel tab during the convention, and "our manager is going to pay the rest," Diop added.

    "They were laughing - the Cyprus authorities - they were laughing: 'Ha, Ha! Hilton Hotel! My God!," Diop said.

    Nodded Sakho: "I think because we are black, they were laughing: 'You cannot go. Two negroes. Hilton Hotel. Ha, Ha. My, God.'"

    "Then they said our visa is void, our visa is not good," Diop said. "They asked us for our tickets back to Senegal," and these were produced. "And we gave them our letter of invitation from Lenia Iacovides," he added, "and they did not give it back to us. They kept it."

    "They asked us why we were in Cyprus. We replied: for training organised by Gateway. We showed them our mission order," Diop said. "They told us our visa and our reservation in the Hilton, which was not paid, may be a scheme to stay indefinitely in Cyprus," Diop said.

    "And we told them: 'No, we won't stay, because we have our jobs in Senegal, our families there'. And they asked my colleague, Mr Sakho, if he had a family in Dakar," Diop said.

    Sakho replied: "My wife and my daughter, seven." Diop said he was not married, but had family and his job there.

    The Immigration Police then said: "'Before coming to Cyprus you went directly to Paris. Why did you transit in London?'" The pair explained that Air France added a London transit to their flight as the only way of ultimately getting them to Cyprus.

    "They said, 'No, it's not true.' "We said, 'Let us call our boss. He's here, in the Hilton Hotel.' They said: 'No, you cannot. You're going back (to Senegal).'"

    "One of those Immigration men told us: 'I have 27 years on the job, 27 years in the airport, and I know now what people do to stay here (illegally)," Sakho recalled.

    Despite their pleas to stay, the Immigration Police "told us: 'No. You go back,' " Diop and Sakho said, practically in unison.

    During their three-hour haggle at Larnaca, Cyprus Airways (CY) was "involved heavily in this case", airline spokesman Tassos Angelis said. "The Cyprus Airways duty officer did his best to convince Immigration to let them in, since they had everything in order."

    Even Group Chief Executive Demetris Pantazis tried to get the pair admitted, lest CY be fined 4,000 for flying them back to London with no British visa, Angelis said. This involved delaying the 6pm flight's take-off by 50 minutes, he added.

    Ultimately Migration Officer Christodoulos Nicolaides ordered the pair deported. "They wouldn't give us a permit to take off unless we deported these people. We were ordered to put them on the plane and take them back to London," Angelis said.

    Asked why he and Diop were deported, Sakho replied matter-of-factly: "I think because we are black."

    "Myself, I think it was a problem of racism," Diop said. "We are black, and they asked themselves how two black men could stay in the Hilton Hotel." He said the Immigration Police concluded: "'They can't. It is a scheme to stay here in Cyprus.' I think that's all. We are black."

    Costas Papamichael, an assistant to Nicholaides at the Immigration Department, on first hearing of the case, flatly denied that colour had played any part in the deportation of the pair.

    "No, I don't believe that this is the reason," he said. "It is not colour which is the criterion (for entry). ...We have in Cyprus a lot of black people" visiting or on business. "I can just finally deny that these people were not allowed to get into the country because of their colour," Papamichael said.

    After exploring the matter, Papamichael blamed Diop and Sakho for their own deportation.

    "It seems that the two Senegalese did not present at the airport the documentation needed by the Immigration Officers there to allow them to get in - all this information about the seminar and all these kinds of things - and that's the reason these people were refused entry to the island," Papamichael said, ignoring Iacovides' letter inviting Diop and Sakho (Immigration officers kept it) to the Hilton seminar.

    "As soon as the (Immigration) people there were informed by the organisers (Iacovides) that they (Sakho and Diop) would participate in the seminar, this refusal was revoked, and the people (Sakho and Diop) were asked to come to Cyprus to participate without any problem," Papamichael said.

    "Mr Nicolaides was involved in this case," Papamichael said. "I know that he was involved," in deporting Diop and Sakho - despite being told by Pantazis of Cyprus Airways that "they have everything in order. They have their visas, they have their reservations" - and in the volte-face decision to admit them. In fact, during their deportation flight back to London, Iacovides herself began storming the Immigration Department, going as high up as Nicholaides, to get his deportation order reversed. (Nicolaides declined to discuss this story with The Sunday Mail.)

    "I kicked up a fuss with the airport, and told them who we are, and told them they should not be discriminating because these guys are black," Iacovides said.

    "I was very angry, and I said to them (Immigration): 'Just because you had some illegal immigrants who happened to be black, it doesn't mean that everybody who is black and comes through the airport should be treated in such a racist way'," she said.

    "I think it's embarrassing for Cyprus," Iacovides added. "If Immigration authorities take this seriously, it will make my job a lot easier the next time. Of course I'm embarrassed for Cyprus."

    Meanwhile, Angelis said Cyprus Airways now plans to get the Immigration Department to pay the air fares for first deporting Diop and Sakho and then allowing them back again. (A one-way ticket to London costs 169.)

    March 7, 1999

    [02] Germans wanted baby to die in peace in the north

    By Jean Christou

    A GERMAN couple who fled to the occupied areas of Cyprus to prevent their six-month-old baby boy from receiving cancer treatment told a German TV station they wanted their child "to die in peace".

    Sven and Lamia Maerske, aged 26 and 22 respectively, returned to Germany after striking a deal with diplomats on the island to allow their son's eye tumours to be examined by doctors there.

    The couple fled Germany for the north of the island last month because as followers of the Islamic Nakshibendi order, they are forbidden to seek medical intervention.

    On their return to Germany, Lamia Maerske told SAT-1 television on Friday night in Bonn that she had been worried about the pain that baby Mukaram Emil would suffer if his tumours were treated.

    "I even thought it would be better if he died in peace," she said.

    Mukaram Emil's father said he would stick to his convictions "no matter what the consequences".

    According to French news agency Agence France Presse, the deal the couple made with German diplomats in occupied Nicosia will take the responsibility for the baby's health from their shoulders.

    Germany agreed to cancel the arrest warrants which had been issued for the couple to encourage them to return.

    In exchange they would return to Germany and have their son's eyes examined at a top clinic in Essen, provided that a Turkish doctor was also allowed to attend the procedure.

    If the specialists agree that medical treatment is necessary, the baby will be operated on but the admission forms will be signed by the German authorities who have agreed to take full responsibility for the operation and the baby's welfare.

    The couple fled the southern German city of Augsberg on February 17 and went to the north of the island where they sought refuge at a Nakshibendi shelter.

    They had initially asked for 'political asylum' from the Denktash regime, as they faced up to 15 years in jail in Germany if their baby died as a result of their actions.

    The family returned to Germany in a special German ambulance plane from Tymbou airport.

    March 7, 1999

    [03] Warder in court over 'Al Capone jail-break plot'

    A WARDER at the Nicosia Central Prison was yesterday remanded in custody for his alleged involvement in a planned breakout by a Cypriot serving life for killing two foreign women.

    Socrates Socratous, 27, was arrested on Friday night after it was suspected that he was being bribed by notorious convict Antonis Kitas, better known as Al Capone.

    Police believe Kitas has been planning his escape since last December and that he has bribed Socratous to the tune of 500, to assist in the breakout.

    A search of the warden's Paliometocho home uncovered a neat bundle of 20 and 10 notes totalling 500, the sum allegedly given to him by Al Capone, said police.

    Nicosia district court yesterday remanded Socratous in custody for eight days.

    Al Capone was convicted in 1994 for the rape and murders of Ukrainian artiste Oxanna Lisna, 20, and Swedish housewife Christina Ahfeldt, 28.

    Oxanna's battered body was discovered down a Larnaca well and Christina's corpse was unearthed at Kotsiatis rubbish tip outside Nicosia.

    Both young women were abducted, beaten and sexually assaulted before being murdered and dumped in isolated locations in the summer of 1993.

    March 7, 1999

    [04] Athens woman 'had drugs in suitcase'

    A 20-year-old Athenian woman was yesterday remanded by a Larnaca court on suspicion of drug trafficking and possessing 5.04 kilos of cannabis.

    The court heard student Paraskevi Gouva, 20, from Kipseli, was caught carrying the drugs by customs officers at Larnaca airport on Friday night after arriving from Athens.

    Police said that Gouva named Cypriot student Demetris Demetriou, 22, from Limassol, as her accomplice.

    Both were remanded for eight days by a Larnaca district court yesterday.

    Drug squad officer Marios Xenophontos told that court that the woman was arrested after customs found six packages containing cannabis in her luggage.

    Gouva said in a police statement that Demetriou had helped her pack the Cyprus-bound drugs in an Athens apartment, the court heard.

    Xenophontos said the investigation would extend to Greece.

    March 7, 1999

    [05] Turkish Cypriots barred from UN gathering

    TURKISH Cypriot women were not allowed to attend an UN-organised gathering at the Ledra Palace yesterday to mark International Women's Day.

    A group of women had assembled at the Turkish Cypriot checkpoint around at 2pm when the event began, but they were not allowed through.

    "This makes us very sad," Unficyp Chief of Mission Dame Ann Hercus told journalists inside the Ledra Palace courtyard.

    Unficyp spokesperson Sarah Russell told The Sunday Mail that the attendance of Turkish Cypriot women had not looked promising all along. "But we were hopeful," she said.

    Russell said the UN had gone to the trouble of translating many leaflets on health and other topics into Greek and Turkish so that they could be well informed on women's issues.

    "It's a great shame," she said, referring to the ban on Turkish Cypriot women.

    Hundreds of Greek Cypriots attended the event, which was held between 2pm and 5pm.

    Several stalls devoted to women's issues had been set up, and the United Nations also provided an art exhibition and musical entertainment.

    Unficyp women soldiers also showed off their skills with a demonstration of abseiling down the side of the Ledra Palace Hotel.

    March 7, 1999

    [06] Gangsters beware: Murder Inc. (Cyprus) is on the case

    By Charlie Charalambous (Media Correspondent)

    READING like the script of a Martin Scorsese movie, the obscure declaration vowed to clean the scum from the streets.

    But this was no psycho cab driver pledging to wash New York's pimps and pushers down Big Apple drains; it was a carefully crafted proclamation discovered in a Nicosia telephone box.

    Life in Cyprus rarely imitates art, but a Sigma TV news exclusive on Friday night tried very hard to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction.

    Rising from the phoenix of the Ekas fiasco several years ago, a new and potentially bogus organisation has emerged from the ashes, bearing the rather grandiose title of 'Murder Incorporated (Cyprus)'.

    It is not yet clear how long it took the organisation to come up with the name, but it has certainly made headline news.

    According to the Sigma-discovered 'Murder Incorporated' phone box declaration, dated February 3, its aim is to "cleanse Cyprus of the filth and the underworld, something which the police have so far been unable to do".

    The fledgling firm has police top brass in its sights: "Our first target is a high-ranking police officer," it warns.

    Also in the phone box statement the self-declared group says its services are freely available to the law-abiding public (although there may be a catch in the small print).

    "With a clean conscience and our heads held high, we offer our services to the people of Cyprus," said the company prospectus, as screened by Sigma TV.

    But anyone who may have committed a misdemeanour in the past should keep his or her head down for a while.

    "We confirm that any Cypriot citizen who has no links with the underworld will come to no harm; they will, in fact, feel safe for the first time."

    Sigma accorded the full Hitchcock treatment to this sensational discovery. But some media observers say the plot has more than a few giant holes in it.

    For example, professional hit men don't generally leave calling cards in phone boxes waiting to be found by TV news hounds.

    No sooner had Sigma spread panic among the island's viewers than the police gave an apparent stamp of approval to the story by issuing a statement.

    "While an investigation has been launched into the seriousness of this leaflet, we would like to convey to the public that we will come down hard on those who take the law into their own hands," was the official police response.

    Strange organisations established in Nicosia phone booths are the stuff of legend in media circles.

    Six years ago the wonderfully sounding 'Ekas', an alleged political terrorism group, was born in an obscure Engomi phone box, giving Antenna TV something to shout about in the ratings war.

    Reported hysteria about Ekas quickly faded, however, along with any hard evidence of its existence. The same fate may now await Murder Inc. (Cyprus).

    March 7, 1999

    [07] Waiter! There's a fly in my goat

    By Jean Christou

    THE BRITISH bases cliff-top restaurant for vultures at Episkopi is expected to open officially within a month. Reservations will not be necessary.

    The vulture restaurant is part of a wide-ranging conservation policy by the bases in conjunction with government departments.

    Some 29 Griffon vultures nest in seven places on the cliffs around Episkopi, including eight newborns and three new additions apparently attracted by the menu - dead sheep or goat.

    Bases conservationist Ian Williamson said vultures will travel up to 50 kilometres for a good meal. "They chose to live here," he said. "Presumably they feel the site is right for nesting."

    Griffon vultures stand one metre high, have a wing span of two and a quarter metres, and weigh around ten kilos.

    The vulture restaurant costs around 30 a week to operate and is being monitored both by bases personnel and by Cypriot forestry officials.

    Williamson said the area around Episkopi is possibly the last viable breeding colony for vultures in Cyprus.

    The vulture restaurant is one of several ongoing and environmental projects at the British bases.

    Also high on the agenda is the turtle nesting site on Tunnel Beach at Episkopi.

    The bases estimate that around 575 hatchling turtles, mostly loggerheads but also the endangered Green Turtle, reached the sea from Tunnel Beach last year. In all, around 3,000 turtles have hatched from bases beaches.

    Akrotiri Salt Lake is also targeted for conservation as a nature reserve. At seven square kilometres, its area is larger than the Larnaca Salt Lake area.

    Bases Chief Officer Patrick Rotheram said the British Ministry of Defence's environmental and conservation drive had nothing to do with criticism about military exercises in the Akamas peninsula.

    Rotheram said an environmental committee for the bases has existed for the past ten years.

    "A lot was in place two and a half years ago," he said. "It is not a reaction to any particular criticism."

    Negotiations for an alterative site are at an advanced stage, the bases said. Bases spokesman Rob Need said the Akamas is a political issue, not an environmental one.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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