Cyprus Refugees

In occupying the north of the island, Turkey forcibly expelled the Greek Cypriots living there, who constituted about 80% of the indigenous population.

About 28% of the Greek Cypriots, fleeing from the Turkish invading forces, streamed into the government-controlled area, homeless and destitute. Most of them had to sleep in the open for several weeks before they were given shelter in tented camps. With the passage of time, and thanks to international aid, the housing problem of the refugees was overcome. However, their demand for their basic human rights to be respected and for them to be allowed to return to their homes remains unrequited.The European Commission of Human Rights of the Council of Europe in its report adopted on 10 July 1976 found Turkey responsible for the eviction of the Greek Cypriots from their homes, for its refusal to allow their return to their homes and for the looting and deprivation of their possessions.

In July 1989, a Kyrenia refugee, Mrs Titina Loizidou, brought a case before the European Court of Human Rights against Turkey alleging violation of her right to 'peacefully enjoy' her property in Kyrenia, which is situated in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus. She claimed that Turkey violated Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol 1 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Article 1 provides that 'every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions' and Article 8 stipulates that 'everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life'. On 18 December 1996 the Court ruled by 11 votes to six that Turkey had violated Titina Loizidou's property rights by denying her access to plots of land in Kyrenia. It dismissed Turkey's argument that the European Human Rights Convention did not apply to its occupation of the northern half of the island since it occurred before Ankara accepted its jurisdiction. The Court found Turkey responsible for continuing violation of human rights in the Turkish occupied area of Cyprus and, refused, moreover to accept the legitimacy of the breakaway regime subsequently set up in occupied Cyprus, stating that the Republic of Cyprus remains the sole legitimate government on the island.

More recently the Court, in its judgement in the case of Cyprus V. Turkey (application no.25781/94 ) on May 10, 2001 found, by sixteen votes to one, the Turkish vote, that Turkey committed 14 violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. Out of these, three violations concern the rights of Greek Cypriot displaced persons. More specifically, the Court held that Turkey committed the following violations:

  • a continuing violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence) concerning the refusal to allow the return of any Greek-Cypriot displaced persons to their homes in northern Cyprus;
  • a continuing violation of Article 1 of ProtocolNo. 1 (protection of property) concerning the fact that Greek-Cypriot owners of property in northern Cyprus were being denied access to and control, use and enjoyment of their property as well as any compensation for the interference with their property rights;
  • a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) concerning the failure to provide to Greek Cypriots not residing in northern Cyprus any remedies to contest interferences with their rights under Article 8 and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1.

Furthermore, the General Assembly, the Security Council and the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations as well as the Non-Aligned Movement, the Commonwealth, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other international organizations demanded the urgent return of the refugees to their homes in safety and called for the full restoration of all human rights of the population of Cyprus.

The Cyprus Government has urged Turkey to comply with these resolutions and to recognize that Cyprus’ citizens have the right to freedom of movement, freedom of settlement and the right to enjoy their own property throughout the island.

Source: Press And Information Office, Republic Of Cyprus, 2005