Since the Turkish invasion of 1974 and occupation of 36% 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, the systematic colonisation and expulsion of the local Greek Cypriot population as well as the compulsion of the Turkish Cypriots to move to the Turkish occupied areas are all part of Turkey's long-standing expansionist policy. Turkey's obvious aim is to assimilate the part of Cyprus it occupies and to ultimately annex it.

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 mainland Turkish colonists. 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 the pressures from Turkish colonists who are given undue privileges. It is estimated that 55.000 Turkish Cypriots emigrated, a figure which represents about a third of all Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriots themselves have become a minority in the occupied area, victims of the colonisation policy of their leadership.

Taking into account the continuing migration of Turkish Cypriots and the fact that the percentage increase of the population in the occupied areas is grater than the percentage of births, it is obvious that a large number of settlers are brought from Anatolia and are illegally settled in Cyprus in the framework of a plan which aims at changing the demographic character of the occupied areas.

The number of colonists from Turkey is estimated to be about 115.000 (2001 figures), a number often quoted by Turkish Cypriot politicians and published in the local Turkish Cypriot press. The Turkish colonists together with the 35.000 Turkish occupation troops on the island far outnumber the Turkish Cypriots.

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). Long-term, this would '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' and work permits. They have been organized in political parties, the main ones of which are the “Nationalist Justice Party” and the “National Revival Party”. They also participate in other political parties and play an important role in political life. According to the Turkish Cypriot daily “?vrupa” (26.3.2001) 34.000 title deeds have been given to settlers from Turkey since 1974. This land is more than half of Northern Cyprus, the reporter says.

International Condemnation of the policy of Colonization - Turkey's policy of colonization 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 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 in direct violation of the European Convention of Human Rights. This policy has been condemned in various resolutions of the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other international organizations. It is also against the wishes of the 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 opposition. Mr. Cuco's report concluded that the demographic composition of Cyprus is being radically altered as a result of the settlement of thousands of foreigners brought in from Turkey. He describes the establishment of Turkish colonists as an undisputed fact and clearly states that their presence constitutes an additional obstacle to a peaceful negotiated solution of the Cyprus problem.

Mr. Cuco also referred to the serious problem caused by '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.

Mr Cuco’s findings were affirmed in the Report by the Rapporteur of the Committee of Immigration and Demography of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Finnish Deputy, Mr Jaakko Laakso, who visited Cyprus twice (5-12 March, 2001 and 28-30 October 2002) and gathered information in preparation of his report (2 May 2003).

After the submission of the above report, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe approved with an overwhelming majority (68 votes in favour, 15 against and 2 abstentions) a Recommendation (1608/24/6/2003) which states inter alia 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. According to reliable estimates, their number currently amounts to 115 000.
  • The settlers come mainly from the region of Anatolia, one of the less developed regions in Turkey. Their customs and traditions differ in a significant way from those in Cyprus. These differences are the main reason for the tensions and dissatisfaction of the indigenous Turkish Cypriot population who tend to view them as a foreign element.
  • In particular, the Assembly expresses its concern at the continuous outflow of the indigenous Turkish Cypriot population from the northern part. Their number decreased from 118 000 in 1974 to an estimated 87 600 in 2001. In consequence, the settlers outnumber the indigenous Turkish Cypriot population in the northern part of the island.
  • In the light of the information available, the Assembly cannot accept the claims that the majority of arriving Turkish nationals are seasonal workers or former inhabitants who had left the island before 1974. Therefore it condemns the policy of 'naturalisation' designed to encourage new arrivals and introduced by the Turkish Cypriot administration with full support of the Government of Turkey.
  • 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 recommendation concludes with the statement that the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, taking into account the above, recommends, inter alia, 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;”

“Call on Turkey to comply with the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights concerning refugees’ right to property in the occupied part of Cyprus.”

The Parliamentary Assembly also recommends that the Committee of Ministers

“promote the idea of the creation, with a contribution from the international community, of a Fund which would ensure the financing of possible voluntary returns of the Turkish settlers to Turkey.”

Turkish Cypriots also condemn Colonization - 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.

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