Turkish Colonisation

Since its 1974 invasion and subsequent occupation of 36,2% of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, Turkey has maintained a policy of bringing in thousands of Anatolian colonists to settle in the occupied area, thus changing the demographic character of the island. Occupation, colonisation and expulsion of the local Greek Cypriot population are all part of Turkey’s long-standing expansionist policy. Turkey’s aim is to cede and assimilate the part of Cyprus it occupies and ultimately to annex it.

Turkish Cypriots a Minority in Occupied Cyprus

Demographic analysis and examination of statistical data on arrivals and departures of Turkish Cypriots as well as Turks from Turkey clearly show widespread emigration of the indigenous Turkish Cypriots, who are systematically replaced by an even greater number of illegal colonists from Turkey.

According to statistical evidence, press reports and statements by Turkish Cypriot politicians, Turkish Cypriots are forced to emigrate, as a result of unemployment, economic, social and moral degradation and pressure from Turkish colonists who are given undue privileges. It is estimated that 58.000 Turkish Cypriots out of a population of 116.000 have emigrated since the invasion. The Turkish Cypriots themselves have become a minority in the occupied area, victims of the colonisation policy of Turkey and their leadership.

Given the continuing emigration of Turkish Cypriots and the fact that the population in the occupied areas increases every year by more than the birth rate justifies, it is obvious that a large number of Anatolians are brought to and illegally settled in Cyprus, part of a well-planned scheme, the aim of which is to
change the population ratio in the occupied area and the demographics of Cyprus.

Alarming Number of Turkish colonists

The policy of bringing settlers from Turkey to the occupied areas has changed demographics to such an extent that illegal settlers now outnumber the Turkish Cypriots by almost two to one. Turkish settlers are estimated at around 162.000 compared to the 88.100 Turkish Cypriots. Since 2004 alone it is estimated that more than 40.000 new settlers came to the island.

Turkey’s colonisation policy aims at:

* Altering the demographic structure of Cyprus so that the Turkish-speaking population outnumbers the Greek Cypriots (Turkish Cypriots constituted 18% of the population before the Turkish invasion): In the long-term this could be used to “justify” inordinate claims of the Turkish side at the negotiating table regarding territorial arrangements and political power in a final settlement of the Cyprus problem.

* Exercising control over political life in the occupied area: To this effect the colonists are given “citizenship”, Greek Cypriot properties, “voting rights”, work permits and lower wages, thereby giving rise to unemployment among Turkish Cypriots and forcing them to emigrate.

* Importing cheap labour to be used especially in the construction industry: Since the submission of the Annan Plan for the solution of the Cyprus problem (which was rejected by the Greek Cypriot community in the 2004 referendum) that includes an unacceptable restriction of the right to restitution of property, the illegal regime in occupied Cyprus [the so-called “TRNC”] has engaged in unprecedented construction frenzy in the occupied part of Cyprus. Low – wage settlers from Turkey are brought to the occupied area and employed in the illegal building business.

International condemnation of the colonisation policy

Turkey’s policy of colonisation of Cyprus is contrary to the Treaty of Establishment of the Republic of Cyprus as well as the Geneva Conventions Protocol of 1977, which considers it a “war crime”. This explains the reluctance of the Turkish Cypriot leadership to admit to the existence of colonists and their attempt to falsely present them as “seasonal workers” or Turkish Cypriot emigrants who are now returning.

The presence of colonists in the occupied part of the Republic of Cyprus is also in direct violation of the European Convention Human Rights. This policy has been condemned in various resolutions of the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other international organisations. It is also against the wishes of Turkish Cypriots themselves.

In 1991 the Spanish parliamentarian Alfons Cuco investigated the problem of colonists on behalf of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Demography of the Council of Europe, following representations by the Cyprus government and the Turkish Cypriot political opposition parties. Mr Cuco concluded in his report that the demographic composition of Cyprus is being radically altered as a result of the settlement of thousands of foreigners brought in from Turkey. Mr Cuco also referred to the serious problem caused by the purported “naturalisation” of the settlers and the fact that it has been the deliberate policy of the Turkish Cypriot “authorities” to give “the Turkish nationals Cypriot nationality”. He also added that “the opposition parties’ allegations about waves of naturalisation prior to each ‘election’, are probably based on fact” and that the number of colonists justifies their concern that their community is losing its identity and becoming a minority in the occupied area.

Rapporteur Jakko Laakso submitted on 2 May 2003 an updated report on the colonisation of the occupied part of Cyprus by Turkish settlers, confirming Mr Cuco’s findings.

Mr Laakso notes that the policy of “naturalisation” of settlers encourages new arrivals and favours the process of hidden colonisation which results in the modification of the demographic structure of the whole island. The settlers, who have no or very little professional skills and whose customs and traditions differ significantly from those in Cyprus, are a source of tension and dissatisfaction among the indigenous Turkish Cypriot population who tend to view them as a foreign element, he says.

Mr Laakso also emphasises that the presence of settlers constitutes an additional and important obstacle to a peaceful negotiated solution of the Cyprus problem.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted Mr Laakso’s report on 24 June 2003, together with a recommendation condemning the policy of “naturalisation” and calling on Turkey as well as its Turkish Cypriot subordinate local administration in the occupied area to stop the process of colonisation.

The recommendation states the following:
«It is a well-established fact that the demographic structure of the island has been continuously modified since the de facto partition of the island in 1974 as a result of the deliberate policies of the Turkish Cypriot administration and Turkey.

Despite the lack of consensus on the exact figures, all parties concerned admit that Turkish nationals have been systematically arriving in the northern part of the island.» It adds: «The Assembly is convinced that the presence of the settlers constitutes a process of hidden colonisation and an additional and important obstacle to a peaceful negotiated solution of the Cyprus problem.»

The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers «call on Turkey, as well as its Turkish Cypriot subordinate local administration in northern Cyprus, to stop the process of colonisation by Turkish settlers…»

Turkish Cypriots also condemn Colonisation

It is not only the international community that condemns the colonisation of the occupied part of Cyprus, but the Turkish Cypriots themselves. In particular, the Patriotic Union Movement (PUM), in a letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe demands that only the Turkish Cypriots who are residents in Cyprus vote in the “elections” that will take place in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus in December 2003 and not the settlers or any Turks that were given citizenship of the so called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

In its letter dated 12 June 2003, the Patriotic Union Movement states inter alia that “during the period since the military intervention, instead of re-establishing the constitutional order, Turkey has occupied the northern part of Cyprus and formed a regime totally dependent on itself. In order to keep the control of this regime in its hands, it has obtained citizenship for the hundred of thousands of people it carried to the island from Turkey, and has prevented the true reflection of Turkish Cypriot people’s will to the election results in all elections that have taken place.”

Moreover the Patriotic Union Movement appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against the right of the settlers from Turkey to vote in the December 2003 “elections” in the occupied areas.

In its written statement the Patriotic Union Movement notes that the party asked from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) the realization of a population census aiming at conducting “elections” under the observation of the Council of Europe with the participation of Turkish Cypriots only.

The Patriotic Union Movement also stresses that Turkey should be held responsible for distributing “citizenship” to settlers and draws attention to the Vienna III Agreement, asking the Court to announce that the settlers could not be granted citizenship before a solution in Cyprus is reached.