Turkish-Cypriot workers protest attempts to tax earnings from south

NICOSIA (AFP) – Some 1,000 Turkish Cypriots who work in the divided island’s south took to the streets yesterday in protest at what they saw as attempts by authorities in the north to tax their earnings. The demonstration occurred after workers who tried to cross south on Monday were told they would not be allowed through unless they filled out a form that the workers say contained questions on their employer and how much they earn. The protesters gathered in a park in the Turkish-held sector of Nicosia and marched to the office of Dervis Eroglu [the «prime minister» of the breakaway state] to demand a meeting, an AFP correspondent said. Unable to meet with Eroglu, the workers left a black wreath outside his office and called on the government to resign. Turkish-Cypriot officials, meanwhile, said the forms were designed to collect statistical information on workers crossing over to the south and denied any plans to tax earnings. «The form aims to determine the number of people who work in the south and ensure that they smoothly cross over to the other side,» police spokesman Niyazi Demirel said. He denied that the form contained a question on how much a worker earned. The Finance Ministry issued a statement to deny it was seeking to collect taxes from people working in the south. Hundreds of Turkish Cypriots, facing economic hardship in part because of international isolation of their self-proclaimed state, have found work in the internationally recognized and well-off southern part of the island, which is set to join the European Union in May.