‘NEW PATH TO CITIZENSHIP’
“RADICAL” new changes to the way citizenship is granted could be on the way, the TRNC’s new Deputy Prime Minister has told Cyprus Today.
Erhan Arıklı spoke exclusively to this newspaper after taking up his new post on Thursday.
Dr Arıklı, who is also chairman of the Rebirth Party (YDP), said one of his top priorities will be to make changes to the citizenship law to enable foreign residents to become citizens through an “automated” system.
“This is an ongoing problem of the country,” he said. “We recognise that there are foreign residents – irrespective of their country of origin – who own property and pay their taxes and love the TRNC, who are having to renew their residencies yearly.
“Our objective will be to pass new legislation that will take away the ‘discretion’ factor – that is, taking the matter away from the hands of politicians as to whether or not to grant citizenship to people, and placing it in the hands of legal certainty. It will restore trust and confidence in the country.”
Dr Arıklı added that there are “3,000 people who are eligible to become TRNC citizens through marriage who haven’t been granted citizenship, and 8,000 people in total who, despite having the right, have still not been granted citizenship”.
Asked if he was planning to meet expat groups to discuss the matter, Dr Arıklı said: “This will be a matter for the new Interior Minister [Kutlu Evren], however this is one of the key positions of the YDP.”
Human Rights lawyer and former foreign minister Emine Çolak said she would back a law to bring in an “automated system” for citizenship that is “just, reasonable and which conformed to universal human rights laws”.
“Unfortunately, at present, TRNC citizenship can be granted to people who do not fulfil the conditions through bribes, but is denied to those who are fully entitled,” she said.
“There will be a need for a country-wide debate on the sort of criteria that will be needed. I think a five-year period of residing in the country [to become eligible for citizenship] is reasonable.
“However it needs to be worked out in a manner that also protects the demographics of the country, which is indeed possible under human rights laws. There must not be discrimination based on nationality, age or gender.”
The Foreign Residents chairman Horst Gutowski, 71, and wife Monika, 74, who live in Lapta, moved to North Cyprus 16 years ago.
Mr Gutowski said that while he appreciated the idea of an “automated citizenship” system “it would be much better for the new government to look into how improvements can be made to long-term residency permits and abolish this yearly [renewal] requirement.
“It would be much better for all of us aged over 60 not to have to undergo annual permit procedures and running around,” he said.
“They should [instead] make long-term residency permit renewal “However, for people who own property here and who have lived here for a long period of time, affording them the right to citizen ship is a positive development.” British Residents Society (BRS) chairman Peter Wilkins said it would be a “very radical move” for the TRNC to place the issue of citizenship “into a legally certain process based on set criteria”.
“It would show that the TRNC recognises the value of expats and foreign residents both economically and in other areas,” he said. “The matter of citizenship had actually been raised at the last BRS annual general meeting in July in the presence of Prime Ministry legal and political affairs director Serap Destegül Rediff, where then Prime Minister Ersin Tatar said he would back such a move to enable foreign residents to become citizens.
“This is fair and equitable and does relate to human rights. It also takes away the ‘discretionary factor’ from politicians and provides confidence and certainty.
“It is a positive development and we look forward to cooperating with the new government and put forward our views related to these and other issues.”