Turkish Cypriot families ponder fate of missing

NICOSIA (AFP) – Relatives of Turkish Cypriot missing persons took the unusual step yesterday of petitioning the Cyprus government in person for information on the fate of their loved ones. Eight Turkish Cypriots, led by their lawyer Emine Erk, traveled to the presidential palace to deliver a petition expressing «concern» over delays in tracing the whereabouts of the disappeared. «We have handed a written application to the presidency and the foreign ministry asking for details regarding the fate of the relatives’ loved ones,» Erk told reporters after an hour-long meeting with officials. Erk said the relatives were upset that they had received no official word on progress in the two years since they provided blood samples for DNA identification of exhumed remains. The petition came after the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which is recognized only by Ankara, eased travel restrictions across the UN-controlled buffer zone in April 2003. Presidential spokesman Marios Karoyan said government officials renewed their pledge to do everything in their power to resolve the long-standing humanitarian issue. «There was a frank and cordial exchange of views. We reiterated the Cyprus government’s will to do all that is humanly possible to resolve the problem that concerns all relatives of missing persons,» Karoyan said. A UN-led Committee on Missing Persons (CMP) has been tasked with overseeing exhumations on both sides of the island under the supervision of UK-based forensics experts INFORCE. Last week, the Greek-Cypriot and Turkish-Cypriot members of the tripartite committee agreed on a DNA procedure to identify exhumed remains, overcoming a major hurdle to digging. Greek-Cypriot relatives want the CMP to conduct thorough investigations into the circumstances of the disappearance of Greek Cypriots last seen alive in the custody of invading Turkish troops. There are 500 Turkish Cypriots officially listed as missing since the outbreak of intercommunal violence in the early 1960s. Some 1,586 Greek Cypriots vanished in 1974 when Turkey invaded the northern third of the island in response to a Athens-backed coup aiming at uniting the island with Greece. Thousands of illegal immigrants expelled NICOSIA (AFP) – Turkish Cypriot authorities have expelled thousands of people, mostly from Turkey, since the beginning of July in a crackdown against rampant illegal immigration, a Turkish Cypriot source said yesterday. The action came after an amendment last month to the immigration law that called on clandestine workers to declare themselves by July 1 or face deportation from the Turkish-occupied north, said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. Nearly 8,000 illegal immigrants have left the island from the ports of Kyrenia in the north and Famagusta in the east between July 1 and 4, the source told AFP.

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