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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 03-05-30

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Friday, May 30, 2003

CONTENTS

  • [01] Judge blasts police over detention of asylum seekers
  • [02] Driver, 21, killed: mechanic arrested
  • [03] CyBC under fire for ‘humiliating footage of Archbishop
  • [04] BA to introduce direct flights to Paphos
  • [05] Child benefit scheme to cost £81 million
  • [06] At last: billboards get the message to move back
  • [07] Government to waive fine penalising Turkish Cypriots for late registry of births
  • [08] EAC offers installments facility after mammoth bills
  • [09] Economic crisis? Experts divided
  • [10] Free-diver goes deep off Limassol for world record

  • [01] Judge blasts police over detention of asylum seekers

    By Alex Mita

    A NICOSIA District Judge yesterday rejected a police request for the eight- day remand of 20 foreign men seeking political asylum and blasted the force for not complying with the asylum law.

    The men, 11 Turks, three Palestinians, three Syrians and one Pakistani presented themselves at the Paphos Gate police station on Tuesday seeking political asylum.

    The men said they came from the north and that they could not go back to their countries because they were of Kurdish origin.

    Only three men had any form of identification.

    They were held in custody by police and appeared before the court for a remand hearing on Wednesday.

    But Judge Alecos Panayiotou rejected the police request for remand, saying police should comply with the law and provide the foreigners with temporary accommodation until their cases were examined.

    Panayiotou said that according to the constitution, no one could be detained unless under suspicion of having committed a criminal offence.

    Politis quoted Panayiotou as saying: “I am in serious doubt whether the provisions of the refugee law that order the remand of foreigners for identification purposes coincide with the provisions of the constitution,” Panayiotou said.

    The president of the Immigrant Support action group told the Cyprus Mail yesterday the police had misinterpreted the legislation.

    “A provision in the legislation states that asylum seekers could only be held in custody on special occasions,” Doros Polycarpou said.

    “The police have turned this provision into a rule when it comes to asylum seekers without any form of identification and were holding the asylum seekers in custody and in some cases without even giving them time to apply for asylum.”

    Polycarpou said the asylum seekers were then taken to jail until their identity was determined with the excuse that it was for the public interest.

    “But they never said what the public interest was and these people often languished in prison for up to a month,” Polycarpou said.

    “And because the central prisons are not police stations according to the law, the asylum seekers are not allowed to apply for political asylum.”

    Polycarpou said that in some cases people were left in jail for up to a month and after they were released had to wait for weeks without any government benefits until their asylum request was considered.

    “Without the letter for political asylum they can’t enjoy any government benefits, meaning that they spend their time here without money and a home, ” he said.

    Polycarpou said the Immigrant Support group would send an official letter of complaint to the justice department in the hope the government would act to protect the rights of asylum seekers.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Friday, May 30, 2003

    [02] Driver, 21, killed: mechanic arrested

    By a Staff Reporter

    A MECHANIC aged 35 from Nicosia was arrested yesterday in connection with charges of illegal modification of a car engine. Police allege that the mechanic was responsible for altering the performance of a car used by 21- year-old Michalis Ioannou, who was killed in a road accident last Sunday.

    Police concluded that speeding was the cause of the accident on Griva Digeni Avenue. Police claimed Ioannou had modified the car from 16-horse power to 19 and added a turbocooler, alterations believed to cost around £2, 500.

    A senior police official said the arrest was the beginning of a campaign to prosecute drivers and mechanics who illegally modify their vehicles.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Friday, May 30, 2003

    [03] CyBC under fire for ‘humiliating footage of Archbishop

    By Alexia Saoulli

    CYBC television yesterday refused to comment on accusations that it had humiliated Archbishop Chrysostomos this week by broadcasting footage of the primate apparently unable to answer questions by its reporter.

    On Monday night, the Archbishop made his first appearance on CyBC since his return last September from Athens, where he had spent four and a half months being treated for head and spinal injuries. Although no official statement has ever been made, it is an open secret the Archbishop is suffering from Alzheimer’s, the degenerative neurological disease.

    The Archbishop was taken to Paphos Bishopric unexpectedly on Monday for a two-hour visit. According to Phileleftheros, he was obviously tired and drained when he arrived at around noon, accompanied by a driver and male nurse.

    The visit was unplanned and at the suggestion of the Archbishop’s doctors, Paphos Bishop Chrysostomos told reporters. According to the Bishop, the Archbishop walked around the Bishopric for a while. “I tried to remind him some familiar rooms, like his office or other familiar objects. He remember something, it was a beneficial change,” he said.

    The Bishop added that the Archbishop’s state of health did not allow discussions on his duties and the possibility of Church elections to reinstate him. “We respect his condition, it was a simple outing and nothing else,” he told the paper.

    However, before the Archbishop’s could get away, a crew of CyBC journalists surged forward to ask him a few questions.

    Asked why he had visited Paphos, he replied: “It is our duty to visit one another and to express brotherly love.” Asked if he followed the Church’s problems, he said: “I don’t know, what problems?” And finally when asked if he believed there would be Church elections to replace him, he said: “If need be.”

    Critics said the news slot had been offensive and humiliating for the Archbishop. “He was clearly very frail and there was no need to see him in that state. No one deserves such treatment when they are that sick. It was inexcusable and in very bad taste of the channel,” a source said.

    But newsroom head Vangelis Loukas simply said he had “no comment” to make on the matter.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Friday, May 30, 2003

    [04] BA to introduce direct flights to Paphos

    By a Staff Reporter

    BRITISH Airways is to introduce its first direct Paphos-London flights from October, the airline announced yesterday.

    The new twice-weekly service to Gatwick will complement the airline’s present service linking Larnaca and London.

    The new route will be served by Airbus A320 and A321 aircraft with Club Europe and Euro Traveller cabins operated by British Airways’ franchise partner GB Airways, starting as a Wednesday and Sunday service from October 12, subject to government approval.

    The new flights were announced at a news conference in Nicosia yesterday.

    On Wednesdays, the flights will leave Gatwick at 9.15am, arriving in Paphos at 3.40pm, before leaving again at 4.45pm to arrive back at Gatwick at 7.30pm; on Sundays, they leave Gatwick at 1.30pm arriving in Paphos at 7.55pm, returning at 9pm. to land in the UK at 11.34pm.

    “This is a really exciting development for the growing band of people travelling regularly between here and London,” said Vassilis Dallaris, British Airways Regional Manager East Med.

    “By adding a service operated out of Gatwick, it will mean increased numbers of tourists brought to Cyprus.

    “The service to Paphos also offers a choice of airports that will cut down the transfer time for many of our visitors who want to stay in that very popular region and want to use British Airways.

    “It will be particularly good news for the British expatriates, many of whom have chosen to retire to live in and around Paphos. Same-day connections will be available to key UK domestic points from Gatwick”

    Return fares on the route will start at £150 plus taxes, fees and charges. Both Club Europe and Euro Traveller cabins will offer the full British Airways in-flight service and feature a “moving map” showing exactly where the aircraft is on its route.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Friday, May 30, 2003

    [05] Child benefit scheme to cost £81 million

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE LAW granting child benefit to all families will cost the government £81 million, a Finance Ministry official said yesterday.

    The bill, approved last year, had initially been means tested, and therefore only applied to certain families. However, after multiple complaints, the government decided to go ahead and give basic benefits to all families and to give supplementary benefits for each child to less affluent parents, said Grants and Allowances Division official, Petros Christoforou.

    The basic annual benefit for families with one child is £200, with £400 for two children and £1,200 for three. Families with four or more children will receive £600 per child, he said.

    Once the amendment has been approved, parents will have to fill in application forms at the Finance Ministry’s Grants and Allowance Division in order to be included in the system.

    “Large families with four or more children, and families with three children will receive their benefits in monthly instalments,” he explained. “People with one or two children will be paid annually, because the sums involved are smaller.”

    Families who earned less than £12,000 a year were eligible for supplementary benefits and would need to submit relevant information on their incomes to receive the extra money, said Christoforou. “Depending on their income and the number of children they have will depend on the supplement,” he said. Once in the system, parents would receive their benefit cheques through the post.

    The basic benefit will be given for all children under 18, and to boys who are completing their 26-month military service. In the case of families with children in tertiary education, payment will continue for boys until 25 and girls until 23, said Christoforou.

    The £81 million necessary has already been approved in the government’s budget for this year and will not burden taxpayers further.

    “In the past, parents had only received tax deductions for their children. If they didn’t pay tax then they didn’t get reductions. Now this system has been done away with and, irrespective of whether or not parents pay tax, they will still get an allowance,” he said.

    He added: “This is not a new scheme. It was approved last year, but with different parameters and so the figure was already included in the annual budget.” The money will come from other taxes that have been imposed in the new tax system, including the additional VAT.

    Although the Central Bank warned the government on Wednesday that unpopular measures would have to be taken to curb an escalating economic deficit and said drastic cuts should be made in public spending, Christoforou assured the two issues were unrelated. “This is not related to the Central Bank’s announcement,” he said. “The deficit is not subject to this bill as the money for this scheme already exists.”

    The sum of £81 million was calculated based on how many children there were at present and on the country’s average birth rate, he said.

    The amendment will be discussed at the House Finance Committee next week and then submitted to the plenum for final approval, he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Friday, May 30, 2003

    [06] At last: billboards get the message to move back

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    AFTER two and a half hours of tit-for-tat wrangling, heated debate and strong accusations, parliament finally passed a bill on roadside billboards yesterday, paving the way for the removal of most billboards within the city and moving back those lining the highway, while also putting a ban on mobile advertising units.

    The new legislation sets out billboard dimensions, regulates the positioning of advertising boards, stipulates minimum distances from roads and highways and gives the Communications Ministry the authority to enforce the legislation. This allows the ministry to prevent new boards from being put up illegally and to remove existing ones that don’t meet the criteria.

    A bill was first introduced last year in an attempt to regulate the new wave of outdoor advertising but was withdrawn after it was so heavily amended that then Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou described it as “unrecognisable”.

    The latest controversial bill was passed after much negotiation and debate with ten new amendments on the table. Some were rejected or withdrawn but others remained. As a result, billboard companies will face significant restrictions on their operations.

    The new provisions ban billboards closer than three metres from urban streets and 40 metres from highways. Any billboards on the highway must be three kilometres apart. City billboards should be no bigger than 3 x 4m and highway billboards no bigger than 6 x 4m.

    However, some deputies argued that the latter size should be permissible within the city but at a distance of 10m from the pavements. After intervention from Greens deputy George Perdikis, the deputies finally agreed to allow big boards in the city but no closer than 15 metres from the streets.

    A proposal to ban mobile advertising units, seen as dangerously distracting to motorists, was also passed. But the proposal banning floodlights from lighting billboards was eventually rejected.

    The Communications Ministry was appointed official licensor for highway billboards while each municipality will be responsible for giving out licences within cities.

    Once the bill is published in the Official Gazette, billboarders will have a transitional period until October 1 this year to comply with the regulations. In effect, existing billboards within the cities and on the highways will either be pushed back or torn down.

    The bill was passed with 23 deputies from DIKO, AKEL, United Democrats and the Green party voting for, DISY deputy George Tasou voting against and 14 DISY deputies abstaining.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Friday, May 30, 2003

    [07] Government to waive fine penalising Turkish Cypriots for late registry of births

    By a Staff Reporter

    INTERIOR Minister Andreas Christou said yesterday the government had decided to annul a provision in the law that imposes fines on people who are late in registering their children’s births.

    At present, the law states that people who are late in registering their children are fined £15 for the delay on top of the £1 for the birth certificate.

    But speaking at a news conference yesterday, Christou said the move was a part of a Cabinet decision for measures to aid Turkish Cypriots living in the north, who were not able to register their children after the invasion in 1974.

    “Because of the current legislation, our Turkish Cypriot compatriots are being forced to pay a fine of £15 to register their children,” Christou said.

    “In the framework of measures to aid Turkish Cypriots, the Cabinet has decided to scrap the provision in question and to present the House of Representatives with an amended bill.”

    Christou said Greek Cypriots never paid fines for the delay since documentation was sent to the Mukhtar directly from the clinic, but Turkish Cypriots had not been able to cross to register their children, and the law was effectively punishing them for something that was not their fault.

    However, Christou said the money already paid by Turkish Cypriots could not be returned.

    “The money cannot be returned, we can’t have a retrospective law,” he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Friday, May 30, 2003

    [08] EAC offers installments facility after mammoth bills

    By Elena Fysentzou

    THE Electricity Authority (EAC) said yesterday it was allowing customers to pay hefty bills for the March-April in two monthly installments following complaints about the increase in prices.

    The announcement came in a statement in which the EAC said bills were unusually high because the authority had underestimated consumption for the January-February period.

    Since April 2000, the EAC has been estimating one bimonthly bill, then adjusting consumption with an actual reading for the following billing period, as is common practice across Europe in an effort to cut costs and keep bills as low as possible.

    The problem arose when the EAC underestimated consumption for the months of January and February. EAC spokesman George Gavrielides said yesterday the discrepancy had arisen because of unusually low temperatures between March and April, which increased the consumption of heavy fuel. Other factors responsible for increased bills are the gradual 2.9 per cent increase in tariffs since last year, as well as a two per cent rise in VAT, which came into force in January, and a substantial increase in the price of heavy oil.

    In response to increasing bills, the EAC has introduced its ‘Plan of Debt Payment by Equal Value Monthly Installments’ to help people organise their finances better. Gavrielides said the plan was available to all EAC customers with no outstanding bills, and would offer identical monthly bills estimated from the previous consumption over the last couple of years. At the end of each year, the customer would either be credited or given back the difference between the estimated and actual figures of the bills.

    The plan has actually been available to customers since last summer but so far only 130 of the 300,000 EAC customers have signed up for it.

    The EAC said more people had been expressing interest lately with figures expected to increase, since many families find it easier to plan their finances around estimated monthly bills.

    The authority added that, irrespective of the scheme, all customers were entitled to pay their March and April bills in two monthly installments.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Friday, May 30, 2003

    [09] Economic crisis? Experts divided

    By Jean Christou

    ECONOMISTS were divided yesterday on the Central Bank governor’s warning that the government had to curb public spending or face problems with the EU’s Maastricht criteria.

    Governor Christodoulos Christodoulou, a Finance Minister in the previous government, said the fiscal deficit could go beyond the projected 3.9 per cent of GDP and that drastic and unpopular measures must be taken before EU accession next year.

    The Maasricht criteria sets a 3.0 per cent of GDP ceiling, a level Cyprus was in line with until last year, when it was pushed off course by the global and domestic decline.

    One economist, who wished to remain anonymous due to his public status, said he agreed with Christodoulou, but believed too much emphasis was placed on the Maastricht criteria.

    “As an economist you don’t have sacred cows when it comes to curbing public spending,” he said. “An economist would say cut down on development projects, hiring, travelling but as a politician can you do this? The solution is obvious, you either tax or cut down.”

    Commenting on the government’s fixation with staying within the Maastricht criteria, the economist said there was a tendency to overemphasise this issue, “which to my mind is wrong”.

    “The criteria were designed for those already in Europe and operating with all the conditions of Europe,” he said. “To say you are in line with Maastricht and you haven’t entered Europe fully and you haven’t experienced the unemployment that might result… Enter Europe and see whether your industry is competitive. If your industry isn’t competitive you will have unemployment and you will speed up the government’s financing of unemployment benefit and at that point measure whether you are consistent with Maastricht. We used it as a measure of compliance with Europe much earlier than we should have.”

    The economist said the Cyprus economy was still relatively healthy and had proved time and again that it was resilient to shocks and managed to survive.

    Stockbroker Stavros Agrotis agreed that the government was thinking ‘one track’ in its rush to satisfy EU criteria and said that even though Cyprus had fallen somewhat behind after years of being first in the class, it could regain its place with more long-term thinking.

    “We seem to have lost type of momentum we were used to… doing better than those around us, but it is the effect of the global stagnation. It’s not a Cypriot problem, it’s a global problem,” he said.

    “We tended to do better than the rest of the globe and the concern is that this time around we might not be; at the same time we have an extra pressure because of the desire for speedy entry into Europe. It’s these factors that are creating the unease at the Central Bank.”

    Agrotis believes the economy should be left alone to adjust, with some input from the government in terms of stimulating the economy towards a medium to long-term goal.

    “We are unfortunately concerned with short-term, the next one to two years, ” he said. “I believe Europe will not be negative towards us if the measures we take are medium to long-term, and even if we are not the best pupil in the class this year, we might be the best pupil in the class the year after.”

    Professor Panos Pashardis from the University of Cyprus said he agreed with the views of the Central Bank governor and called for cuts for spending in the public sector.

    “This is what they should try to do and I think there is scope for this.”

    Pashardis said the economy was suffering due to the drop in tourism, the island’s biggest earner. “And I think this is going to go on for a while,” he said.

    In terms of EU performance, Pashardis said Cyprus was no longer any better than the other candidate countries due to the rise in inflation in the wake of the VAT hike to 15 per cent this year.

    “We have to wait until the end of this year and see what the fiscal deficit is going to be,” he said. “Public spending can be reduced, especially in supplementary budgets regarding the workings of government. There is scope to save on hiring in the public service. I’m sure the government knows and they are in a position to know better. All I’m saying is that they could do it if they wanted to.”

    But one economist, Costas Apostolides, disagreed with the Central Bank’s prognosis and said it was not a good time to cut back, despite the uncertainty in the economic arena.

    “The rate of growth is very low this year; we are not doing too badly but we might have problems,” he said. “But we have to wait until we have better circumstances and a higher rate of growth and then the situation will largely correct itself. We have to ride out the year and see what the situation is next year to correct the budget deficit.”

    Apostolides agreed the government was sticking too rigidly to the Maastricht criteria, “and things like that which are not relevant to the present situation but are a medium to long-term objective”.

    “We are not too badly off compared to other candidates and we are better than most, but the point is a few years back we were dead in line with Maastricht, so we would need some time to get back to that.”

    Apostolides added the issue was related to how quickly Cyprus joined the eurozone. The government wants to join the eurozone as soon as possible, but the earliest new members will be able to join will be 2006.

    “We should examine if we want to get into the eurozone as soon as possible, ” Apostolides said, adding that some of the other candidates were going to delay eurozone entry for at least two years.

    He said that when Cyprus had been within the Maastricht criteria there was no reason to delay euro entry, “but owing to the economic difficulties we have been having over the past few years, which is still better than anyone else’s but still not up to our usual standard of growth, it would make more sense in this relatively difficult economic environment.”

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003

    Friday, May 30, 2003

    [10] Free-diver goes deep off Limassol for world record

    By a Staff Reporter

    TWO world renowned free-divers went to Limassol yesterday to break the world record in free-diving -- one suffered from the ‘bends’ and the other became the new Men’s Constant Ballast World Record Holder.

    Martin Stepanek, from the Czech Republic, beat the world record by one metre to reach 93 metres deep, with no assistance other than a gulp of air and flippers.

    Austrian Herbert Nitsch made the first attempt to break the world record but after four minutes underwater he resurfaced in a daze. According to a free-divers website, www.deeperblue.net, Nitsch damaged his right eardrum on the way down causing pain and disorientation on the ascent and eventual blackout. Medical staff had to administer oxygen for 10 minutes before he recovered.

    Reporters and camera crew from around the world were present to cover the event which gained increasing popularity after French director Luc Besson made the cult classic Big Blue on the world of free-diving.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2003


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