Turk Cypriots swamped by new settlers

NICOSIA (AP) – A European representative warned yesterday that Turkish Cypriots may become a minority in their homeland because of the influx of more than 100,000 settlers from Turkey. «I have come to the conclusion that there has been a dramatic demographic change in the northern part» of Cyprus, Jaako Laasko, special rapporteur of the Council of Europe, told reporters. «There is a real danger that the Turkish-Cypriot community are becoming a minority.» Laasko is among several foreign envoys on special missions to the island to promote reunification between the Turkish and Greek communities. Turkish-Cypriot opposition parties have long complained that the Turkish-Cypriot minority, numbering 130,000 at the time of the 1974 Turkish invasion, has shrunk to less than half because of emigration and is outnumbered by the settlers, who exceed 100,000. An alliance of 85 Turkish-Cypriot parties, trade unions and professional associations calling itself «This Country is Ours» has staged several demonstrations recently in the north demanding an end to the Turkish occupation and the withdrawal of the settlers. The alliance complains that the settlers are now more than double the native Turkish Cypriots. The settlers and any of the Turkish troops that have served on the island are entitled to automatic citizenship of the breakaway state and have been housed in villages abandoned by the 200,000 Greek Cypriots who fled the north or were forcibly expelled. Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash maintains the Turks arriving from the mainland are «seasonal workers» and that their stay is temporary. Laasko, who was appointed by the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe to investigate the settlers’ situation, said he was refused permission to visit the north. He said he based his conclusions on the number of settlers on information from the United Nations, the Cyprus government and «other sources.» «The question of the settlers is very essential and it should be in the UN plan,» Laasko said. [Cypriot Attorney General Alekos Markidis told Laasko the possibility of settlers being given economic aid to return to Turkey is open to discussion.]