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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-03-17
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From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Friday, March 17, 2000
 Minister’s visit yields new protection for Sri Lankan workersBy Anthony O. Miller
A NEW DAY has dawned in the protection of Sri Lankan workers' rights in Cyprus, partly due to a four-day visit this week by Sri Lanka's Minister of Labour, MJD Seneviratne, according to Honorary Sri Lankan Consul Doros Jeroupoulos of Limassol.
Recent changes in Cyprus law that clamped down on the licensing of agents who import foreign workers also account for much of the new-found freedom from cruelty that Jeroupoulos said the island's 7,500 Sri Lankan workers now enjoy.
The consul said that during Seneviratne's visit, in which he met with Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas and Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou, procedures were agreed to be followed before workers came to Cyprus and to ensure conditions of employment were followed once they arrived.
Under the new deal, "before they come here, they will have three weeks training at the Bureau of Foreign Employment in Colombo," during which non- English-speakers will be eliminated.
"If somebody does not speak English, it's a waste to send this person to Cyprus," Jeroupoulos said, "because after two or three months, they will be in trouble and have to be deported."
The curriculum also includes warnings that, if workers have problems with employers, they "do not run out of the (employer's) house, because you automatically become illegal" and can be deported.
To avoid this, he said he had spread the word among Sri Lankan workers that, "in case of trouble (with an employer), they should not be afraid. They should contact their (labour) agent and the consulate, or the Immigration or the Labour office."
He said problems with unscrupulous labour agents and immigration police were a thing of the past.
"No, no, no," he said. "We've changed that, because we agreed with (Seneviratne) that no (Sri Lankan) applications will be received unless they come through the licensed agents, who have been given their licenses only very recently by the Ministry of Labour."
Recent changes in Cyprus law have reduced to 32 the number of agents licensed to import foreign workers, Jeroupoulos said, "and we accept (work) applications from none other."
"I was with the Minister of Labour (Moushiouttas) yesterday and he confirmed that they were checking everyone out. Anybody with police records or people dealing with cabaret girls and such things are not being granted licenses to bring in workers," he said.
Furthermore, every Sri Lankan worker in Cyprus now "has to come to the consulate to register. We have them all on computer. We issue them special identity cards, so that in case there is police trouble or whatever, they don't go to Immigration, because Immigration - you know - allows the (immigration) policeman to be the judge, and we do not accept that," he said. "And we ask the Labour Department, with the consulate and the agent, to bear responsibility to check out every case" of Sri Lankan workers charging mistreatment by employers, he said.
Since Cyprus law changed, he said, the number of Sri Lankan housemaids fleeing cruel employers and hiding illegally "is minimal now. They have been minimised within months."
"I have a shelter here at the consulate. I have moved the consulate in Limassol (15 Alasias Street). In case anybody is stranded, we house them for a few days until they are settled," he said. "As long as they are here, they are protected."
"The main point," he said, "is we now have the ways and means to solve all their problems. In the Consulate we offer free legal service," as opposed to high fees desperate housemaids pay private lawyers to file interminable, useless court suits.
Instead of wasting time using lawyers to get employers to pay unpaid wages, Jeroupoulos said he now calls the employer and says: "'My man, I want the money here by tomorrow and I want a (contract) release (for the worker). If not, you are in trouble."
"I will report you to Immigration - black-list you so that you will never get a housemaid again'. And it's here. It's finished. What they go to a lawyer for to be solved in seven months, I solve in a phone call," he said.
Of more than 6,500 Sri Lankan women housemaids in Cyprus, "those who are in good houses are very happy; those who have problems, and they tell us the problems... I tell you I handle about 15-20 cases every day, And 99 per cent are resolved," he said.
"It's my duty and responsibility to have everybody happy. Also I have orders from the government of Sri Lanka to find out all the illegal workers and all the immigrants who are mafia, and kick them home." And this, he said, he is also doing.
Friday, March 17, 2000
 Chirac backing for Cyprus talks ad EU aspirationsFRANCE has expressed its support for the UN-led process of peace talks on Cyprus and wants to see a settlement of the political problem.
Paris has also expressed its support for Cyprus' bid to join the EU, saying that when it assumes the six-monthly rotating presidency of the bloc, it intends to undertake an initiative for progress for Cyprus.
France's position was set out yesterday by President Jacques Chirac's spokesman Frederic Desagneaux after a meeting in Paris between Chirac and President Glafcos Clerides, who was due to return to the island last night.
The French official said Chirac had expressed satisfaction with the start of the Cyprus peace talks, hoping that the process would be constructive and sustained.
The two sides are expected to engage in a third round of proximity talks in New York on May 23.
The EU dimension was also part of the discussions in France between Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides and Pierre Moscovici, France's Minster responsible for EU affairs.
The two men reviewed the progress achieved so far and discussed future steps.
In an interview with the influential Le Monde newspaper, Clerides said Greco-Turkish relations could not have a sound base without a solution of the Cyprus problem, though he conceded the climate had improved, even though a solution had not been forthcoming.
Cassoulides meanwhile told Le Figaro that the government hoped the third round of settlement talks would be decisive. He also said EU accession talks should now move on to tackle more difficult chapters, including agriculture, the environment and justice. Cyprus has already closed 11 out of 29 chapters.
"I believe that we will have finished by the end of 2001," Cassoulides told the newspaper.
Next week, the European Union Commissioner responsible for enlargement, Gunter Verheugen, will be in Cyprus for contacts with the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides. Verheugen will arrive on March 23.
Friday, March 17, 2000
 Conservation group joins Akamas campaignBy Martin Hellicar
THE CYPRUS Conservation Foundation (CCF) yesterday joined the ranks of those hitting out at a Cabinet decision to allow "mild and sensitive" development along the Akamas coast, describing it as an affront to conservation, the public and the EU.
The March 1 decision dealt a severe blow to greens' hopes that the government's promise to declare the Akamas a National Park, made over a decade ago, would lead to the whole of the unspoilt peninsula being preserved.
"The decision is characterised by serious omissions on issues of substance, which exposes the government in the eyes of the public and, unfortunately, exposes us as a country in the eyes of Europe," the CCF stated in a press release yesterday.
The CCF - which pioneered efforts to introduce sustainable agro-tourism to the Akamas area - suggested the Cabinet decision was a show of "contempt" for the EU.
Ministers chose not to adopt a state-commissioned 1995 World Bank report, which recommended development on the Akamas be restricted to within existing village boundaries. The CCF pointed out that the European Commission had paid part of the bill for this report.
Also, the CCF noted, the Cabinet had ignored recommendations concerning the conservation of rare Akamas flora and fauna made by the Permanent Committee of the Berne Convention for Protection of Wildlife.
The CCF suggested this was not a prudent way for a country seeking accession to the EU to behave. The EU has no official position on the Akamas, but a number of Euro-MPs have expressed support for the total protection of the area.
The Akamas boasts the island's last remaining sizeable area of lowland scrub forest, sandy beaches used for nesting by endangered green and loggerhead turtles and dramatic gorges and coastal cliffs.
"It is evident that those in government either do not know about or did not want to take into account the accepted principles for protection of natural areas," the CCF stated, noting that the Akamas was home to many endemic plant species. "On the contrary, they promoted the unequal treatment of citizens and pandering to particular interests," the organisation added, regurgitating greens' claims that the Akamas decision was a sell-out to developers.
This unflattering interpretation of the Cabinet's motives is shared by the House environment committee, which has called on the government "not to implement decisions which serve private interests."
Confusion reigns about what the obtusely worded Cabinet decision will mean "on the ground," but special arrangements for the largest parcel of private land on the peninsula suggest tourism development will be allowed deep into the area.
The Cabinet has not defined what is means by "mild" development and environmentalists fear the door has been opened for the hotel development sought by local residents.
Eight applications for licenses to build Akamas hotels are reportedly pending.
The CCF insisted yesterday that hotels would not revive the area, noting that Cypriots were no longer interested in low-grade hotel jobs.
The only existing hotel in the area - the massive Anassa built by the family firm of former Foreign Minister Alecos Michaelides with the help of Cabinet relaxations - employs only one local.
The CCF - a charitable foundation with some powerful patrons, including UD deputy Androulla Vassiliou – has vowed to do all it can to block implementation of the Cabinet decision.
Both Greenpeace and the local Green party have threatened to take direct action to block implementation of the Cabinet plan for the Akamas.
Friday, March 17, 2000
 House set to approve marina laws next weekBy Anthony O. Miller
CYPRUS might at last begin to catch up with the rest of the Mediterranean marina world by the end of the month, if a vote in the House of Representatives expected next Thursday goes the way Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis hopes it will.
Rolandis yesterday told the Cyprus Mail he thought the final draft of a proposed set of marina-operation regulations would be before the House plenum for a vote next Thursday.
"Everything is there," he said. "They are very extensive regulations... (that) govern the operations of marinas. If they are approved, then we have the full legislation for (the six private) marinas" envisioned for Cyprus, and the state could start the tender process to construct them.
The regulations would govern the relationship, pecuniary and otherwise, between the state and those private entrepreneurs who would win tenders to construct the marinas.
Rolandis' plans call for three private marinas for 1,000 vessels each in Paphos, Limassol and Larnaca; one for 600 berths in Ayia Napa; and two for about 300 boats each in Protaras and San Rafael, for a total of some 4,200 vessels.
To pave the way for building the marinas, the House has already repealed a section of Cyprus law that barred leasing to private individuals of any part of the shoreline going into the sea to build permanent facilities of any kind - such as marinas.
In passing that bill, the House also withdrew its earlier insistence on retaining the right to set the rates that boat owners would have to pay to use the marinas, even though the facilities are to be operated by private investors.
Nevertheless, Rolandis said he met yesterday with deputies from Larnaca who still "wanted the proceeds from the Marina of Larnaca to be going to the municipality of Larnaca."
The minister suggested this was a non-starter, "because if we do that, naturally all municipalities will have the same claim."
Rolandis estimates there are 1,400 marinas on the coasts of the 13 countries lining the Mediterranean and its scores of islands.
Of that total, Cyprus has only two marinas - a private one in San Rafael, and the state-owned one in Larnaca. Each can handle only about 300 boats.
Such numbers hardly put Cyprus on the world's charts as a place for the up- market yachting fraternity to sail to and spend its money docking, relaxing and provisioning before sailing on.
Past House action favouring Rolandis' plans for more marinas - with their obvious tourism draw - have won nods from both President Glafcos Clerides, himself a yachtsman, and Zacharias Ioannides, director-general of the Cyprus Hotel Association.
Some are not so sanguine as Rolandis or Ioannides about the marina plan. George Perdikis, leader of the Green Party and prominent environmentalist, has deplored Rolandis' plans for more marinas.
Apart from any environmental considerations, Perdikis has complained that if marina fees are market-set, poorer Cypriots may have no affordable place to berth their boats.
Friday, March 17, 2000
 Cyprus to allow foreign campuses within the yearEducation Minister Ouranios Ioannides said yesterday he supported the European Union accession requirement that Cyprus harmonise its laws with those of the EU so that foreign universities and colleges can set up campuses on the island.
"Yes, I support the change," he said, adding that the presence of foreign colleges and universities in Cyprus would only serve to raise the quality of instruction at the Cyprus University and at the private colleges on the island.
He also noted that having Cypriot branches of foreign universities would help deter Cypriots from emigrating, both for education and post-graduate careers.
And he said it would also help reduce the overseas transfer of foreign currency reserves, which now go to paying the foreign tuition and expenses of Cypriots studying abroad.
He said he expected "between six months and a maximum of one year," for the changes in the law to be made, after which the first foreign campuses would be legally welcome.
According to yesterday’s Alithia, Ioannides and Attorney-general Alecos Markides have already discussed the matter and work has begun on harmonising Cyprus law to implement the EU-mandated changes.
Friday, March 17, 2000
 Cyprus Airways lays on extra flights for holiday weekend breaks to AthensBy Jean Christou
CYPRUS Airways (CY) has laid on extra flights due to demand generated by three holiday weekends in as many weeks.
CY spokesman Tassos Angelis said demand had been tremendous beginning last weekend when Cypriots celebrated Green Monday.
The weekend of March 25 marks Greek Independence Day, and the following weekend, April 1, the anniversary of the start of the 1955 Eoka campaign to end British rule on the island.
CY operates three flights daily to Greece. Angelis said the company had now laid on two extra flights on each of the two upcoming holiday weekends. It is also increasing capacity by using the larger A310s to carry more passengers.
"There is a lot of demand and we are doing our best to cope," he said.
Angelis said there had been a general upsurge in the number of Cypriots taking weekend breaks in Athens.
This, he said, was partly due to the special family and other fares introduced last November and in some cases slashing the cost of a ticket by half.
However, the offer ends on March 30 when the airline enters its busy summer season. Angelis said this had also contributed to people taking a cheap break now before the offers ended. But although the family and senior citizen fares will end, passengers will still be able to use the APEX and night flight offers which start at £79 return.
In January this year, Cyprus signed a memorandum of agreement with Greece in the first concrete move to open the skies between the two countries.
Under the terms of the memorandum, which stops short of full liberalisation, a second Greek airline, in addition to national carrier Olympic, will be allowed to begin scheduled flights from Greek destinations from November 1 this year.
Athens and Salonica, however, are excluded from the agreement. Both routes are covered by a bilateral agreement between the two governments and operated by CY and Olympic.
The Larnaca-Athens route is one of only three profitable destinations for CY, the others being London Heathrow and Tel Aviv in Israel.
Under the new memorandum, charter flight will also be allowed to operate to destinations in Greece, again apart from Athens and Salonica.
Greek airlines Aegean, Axon and Kronos are the airlines involved in the deal designed to boost tourism between the two countries.
Only around 70,000 Greeks visit Cyprus every year out of a total of over two million tourists.
Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis yesterday announced that tourism in general had increased 17.7 per cent in February compared to the same month last year. Around 87,000 tourists arrived on the island last month, compared to 74,041 in February 1999.
Friday, March 17, 2000
 Fears of ‘cult recruitment drive’ in CyprusBy Noah Haglund
FEARS are rising that religious cults masquerading as companies could pose a danger to the psychologically vulnerable, if recent press reports are to be believed.
The US-based Church of Scientology, which its detractors accuse of exercising dangerous forms of mind control, has shown signs of trying to swell its membership in Cyprus, according to a succession of reports in the daily Politis. The paper yesterday published a letter in which a Cypriot woman went as far as to ask a church superior for permission to go to the hairdresser.
On Wednesday, the same newspaper alleged that an unnamed Cypriot diplomat's daughter had fallen into the clutches of a religious cult run by the Church of Scientology.
Scientologists have attracted considerable attention throughout the world, largely because of their success in attracting Hollywood stars to their ranks, including John Travolta, Kristie Alley, Tom Cruise and Lisa Marie Presley.
According to Dianetics, the theory behind Scientology, the purpose of people on earth is to cleanse themselves of passions with spiritual and medical methods so they can travel to the planet from which they came from.
Some, however, doubt the spiritual motives of the organisation, citing Scientology founder and best-selling science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard that "writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion."
Those who pursue the path to 'enlightenment' through Dianetics are encouraged to give large amounts of money to the church and cut off relationships with family and friends.
Politis reported on Wednesday to have found exclusive sources indicating that a new company linked to Scientology had just been registered in Cyprus. The paper said it was comprised of five different commercial logos, all of which could be traced to the US-based church.
The paper claims many Cypriots may already have fallen victim to these 'companies', which present themselves as research centres or help groups offering psychological counselling. Former cult members and police estimate the current number of Scientologists on the island at about 50, but the new companies may suggest an effort to expand.
Yesterday, Politis claimed several Cypriots had handed over their property to companies that could be traced back to the Scientologists.
The group has already obtained a large house worth over £150,000 for meetings every Sunday, the paper alleges, saying the property had belonged to a Cypriot who signed it over to the church after becoming a member.
Politis said it obtained much of its information on the group's efforts in Cyprus when a former member contacted it to report he was in physical and psychological danger after leaving the cult and had had to seek help at a psychiatric clinic.
He claimed that in addition to the effects on his mental well-being, he had lost a lot of money in his quest to travel down the church’s path to 'spiritual enlightenment'.
Apparently, President Clerides is aware of the situation and has sent a formal letter to the Education Ministry to take measures.
It is thought the Ministry has asked the Attorney-general to adopt legislation that would allow measures to be taken. The Cyprus Mail was unable to reach anybody at the Education Ministry for Comment.
The Mail contacted the deans of several local colleges, none of whom reported any proselytising by such groups as the Scientologists. The general consensus was that if these groups were hosting meetings that were free and open to the public, then this was totally permissible under most college rules as well as the laws of the Republic.
Cyprus, however, may just be witnessing the start of a trend already well- established elsewhere. Scientology has major centres in every country in Western Europe and North America. A number of these countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Germany and Greece have seen high profile cases where governments have sought legal action against the church and won.
In 1997, a Greek judge ordered a branch of the church of Scientology registered as a company in Athens to close down and pay all the court's legal fees, ruling that the group had obtained a license to operate under false pretences.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000
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