The Turkish colonists

162,000 colonists from Turkey have been transferred illegally to colonise the occupied area of Cyprus and to alter the demographic structure of the island.

Colonists with Turkish soldiers now outnumber the Turkish Cypriots by two to one in the occupied north.

This colonisation is in violation of the Geneva Convention and United Nations resolutions.

In occupied Cyprus, Turkish colonists are given illegal 'citizenship', stolen Greek Cypriot properties, voting rights and lower wages.

As well as altering the demographic balance of the island in an attempt to turn the Greek Cypriot majority into a minority, Turkish Cypriots have now become a minority in the occupied areas. As a result many Turkish Cypriots have emigrated.

It is estimated that 40,000 Turkish colonists were sent to the island since 2004. Though they are in Cyprus illegally, the colonists were permitted to participate in the UN sponsored referendum in the occupied north, despite the fact that their presence is in violation of United Nations resolutions.

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 the 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 has been condemned in numerous resolutions of the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe and other international organisations.

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 colonists and the fact that it has been the deliberate policy of the Turkish Cypriot regime to give the Turkish nationals illegal 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 colonists, confirming Mr Cuco’s findings.

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

Mr Laakso emphasised that the presence of colonists constitutes an additional and important obstacle to a peaceful negotiated solution of the Cyprus issue.

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

The recommendation states:

"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… 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"

As well as the international community, Turkish Cypriots also have condemned the colonisation of occupied Cyprus. The Patriotic Union Movement (PUM), in a letter to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe demanded that only Turkish Cypriots who are residents in Cyprus vote in 'elections' that take place in occupied Cyprus and not any Turks that were given so-called citizenship.

In its letter of 12 June 2003, the PUM stated inter alia that "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."

"...The Assembly is convinced that the presence of settlers constitutes a process of hidden colonisation and an additional and important obstacle to a peaceful and negotiated solution…[the Assembly]…calls on Turkey as well as its Turkish Cypriot subordinate local administration…to stop the process of colonisation by Turkish settlers..."

Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, Recommendation 1608 (2003), 24 June 2003.