Saturday 12 August 2017

Back-door naturalisation in the north

By Esra Aygin

June 24, 2017
The National Unity Party UBP-Democratic Party DP coalition continues to grant Turkish Cypriot ‘citizenships’ in an uncontrolled manner, Sila Usar Incirli, head of the Doctors’ Union in the north, said. 
Incirli stated that there are long queues at the Nicosia public hospital formed by those seeking a health report for Turkish ‘citizenship’ applications. 
“The hospital is congested,” said Incirli on a TV programme this week. “There is a big crowd seeking a medical report for the citizenship procedures. 
“Civil servants are having to work overtime and doctors are having to examine a much higher number of people during working hours in order to keep up,” she added. 
Deputy head of the north’s UBP-DP coalition Serdar Denktash recently stated that a total of 7,200 people were granted Turkish Cypriot ‘citizenships’ since they came to power in April 2016 and added they would grant another 27,000 without hesitation. 
Yeniduzen newspaper, which is closely following the issue, reported that the hospital had to limit medical examinations for naturalisation purposes to 15 people per day, so as not obstruct other health care services to patients. 
The issue of naturalisation is very sensitive since it is directly related with who will or will not be entitled to become citizens of a possible future federal Cyprus.
There is an understanding between the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot sides that a total of 220,000 people currently in possession of Turkish Cypriot ‘citizenships’ will become citizens of a federal Cyprus. 
This figure includes Turkish Cypriots and Turkish nationals who have settled on the island as of December 2016.
The current naturalisation rule in the north stipulates that anyone, who has been living in the northern part of the island legally for at least five years, is entitled to receive ‘citizenship’.
However, the five-year requirement is, in practice, often waived by the office responsible for the interior affairs of the coalition council on grounds that the applicant “is of benefit to the state”.
Turkish Cypriot authorities have widely been criticised for arbitrarily distributing Turkish Cypriot naturalisation with political considerations, especially during election periods.
In fact, according to a PRIO Cyprus report titled, ‘Is the Turkish Cypriot population shrinking’ by Mete Hatay, statistics indicate a clear increase in the number of persons who acquired ‘TRNC’ naturalisation during election years.
The arbitrary distribution of ‘citizenships’ had become a widely-debated issue in 2004, when then Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat’s Republican Turkish Party CTP, after coming to power, had cancelled a decision by the previous ‘cabinet’ to grant ‘citizenships’ to 1,600 individuals in one sitting.

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