By Chris Elliott….
Last week I wanted to write an article of celebration but due to cancellation of flights this was put on hold until last night, 23rd June, when a flight came back to the TRNC with expats from the UK who on arrival were due to go into quarantine and this is where the celebration was badly spoiled for many.
I received a call from a friend who told me his wife and it seems 6 others (it was actually 67 people) were being refused entry to the TRNC because their residency permits had run out, despite registering and being given permission by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior.
In trying to help I was able to send a message to Minister Tolga Atakan of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation and he replied very quickly and apologised to all concerned and said there was a miscommunication between several authorities which had caused a delay and the latest information is all expats are cleared to enter TRNC.
Now that’s what I call great communication from a member of the government which we have experienced before on a number of occasions so thank you Minister Tolga Atakan.
This morning 24th June I spoke to Horst Gutowski the Chairman of the Foreign Residents in the TRNC – TFR who with their secretary Caroline Houghton met with The Foreign Minister, Kudret Özersay, and Ismail Ali Sahinoǧlu, recently at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the repatriation of Foreign Residents who have been stranded outside the TRNC.
After much publication, they were able to amass many individual facts that were passed to the relevant authorities so approval could be given to those scheduled to return on this inbound flight.
Being caring people Horst and Caroline went to Ercan airport at around 5.30pm last night and found it difficult to find immigration police until they were directed to another building where they met 2 kind policemen who after much head-scratching after being shown the details of the Ministry agreement etc. had to call their superiors for guidance and the rest we know, delays and frustration for these poor people who had been unable to return to their homes for many weeks.
If that was not bad enough Horst from TFR told me he drove first to the Riverside Hotel in Alsancak and then Malpas Hotel in Çatalköy trying to locate the whereabouts of the last group only to find they had been sent to the Olivia Palm Hotel in Girne, and the social media pages were just full of comments of disappointment and unhappiness. So we spoke today to Muhammet Yasarata the Co-Founder and MD of Cyprus Premier Holidays/Cyprus Paradise who has been trying so hard to arrange flights to get ex-pats back to the TRNC and this is what he had to say:
“I am extremely pleased and proud to assist and collaborate by providing the flight to repatriate ALL that call North Cyprus home.
I have the utmost respect for the expat community here, they truly consider the TRNC their home and give their heartfelt support in the battle for this country to be recognized!
It’s important we return their loyalty and support by treating them as equal citizens of the TRNC.”
That’s a very powerful message and in the days ahead unhappiness will be replaced by the feeling of celebration for both those who have returned and those who were waiting for them.
We should give thanks to the NGO’s involved including Catherine Hayes who first started a Facebook page to help the stranded people, Horst Gutowski and Caroline Houghton of TFR who sought help from Minister Kudret Özersay, and Ismail Ali Sahinoǧlu at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Tolga Atakan at the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation which handles flights into the TRNC at Ercan airport.
Special thanks also to Sonya Karafistan of CTCA – the Council of Turkish Cypriots Association UK for her great help with co-ordination of activities and finally Muhammet Yasarata the Co-Founder and MD of Cyprus Premier Holidays/Cyprus Paradise without whose help the return of these ex-pats would not have been possible.
Flight photos courtesy of Catherine Hayes