Property – a problem shared is a problem quadrupuled

I have just read that the RoC are to issue Certificates of Ownership to Greek Cypriot refugees occupying land belonging to Turkish Cypriots in the south. The legality of these certificates outside of the RoC is questionable as they seem to be similar to the TRNC title deeds passed on to ex-pats in the north. My heart goes out to these refugees who, like the Turkish Cypriot refugees in the north, must be confused and distressed over what is happening; aware they are pawns in a much bigger political game far beyond their comprehension and knowing that at any time they could find themselves in the same position as the Orams v Mr. A. Fiasco.

When ordinary people find themselves in extraordinary situations they do not always behave well. In the TRNC we have ordinary ex-pats, most in the autumn of their lives being attacked on three fronts.  Many are now suffering from anxiety related illnesses and some have succumbed to major illnesses, exacerbated by the stress, resulting in early death. The partners of the deceased are left wondering which way to turn and what on earth they are doing here. So many have invested everything they have in their ‘dream’ and do not have a way out.  You can then understand if the frustration brought about by this causes them to be less than polite if a Greek Cypriot knocks on their door claiming that the house and land belongs to them.  What is not yet clear is whether there will soon be more Turkish Cypriots knocking on Greek Cypriot refugee doors and demanding their properties back.

Now, in the south, these refugees may in a few years come to believe that the certificate they have been given is what it says it is; a certificate of OWNERSHIP. It is not inconceivable for some of them to pass them on to foreigners who seeing how cheap they are, snap them up . With the help of flexible lawyers, arrangements can be made for new certificates to be produced with a change of name from the Greek Cypriot refugee to, for example, an unsuspecting Brit. The lawyer will explain that the government will offer the original Turkish Cypriot owner compensation and so these certificates are as good as title deeds. Isn’t the fact that they can be used to raise a mortgage proof of this?

Contrary to Greek Cypriot popular opinion, most foreigners in the TRNC consulted legal advice, were encouraged by the Government who took their stamp duty, VAT and other purchase related government taxes and were actively complicit in all aspects of their house purchase here.  It turns out that the TRNC’s actions were not acceptable to the international community. Some Greek Cypriots accuse these foreigners of being stupid for not realising this. But isn’t this what is now happening in the south, the RoC is unilaterally deciding to issue pieces of paper with the word “ownership” on them, contrary to international law? If they get away with it how would this be different to what has happened in the north? Ten years later, with no settlement likely, these pieces of paper could be seen as being exactly the same as the TRNC title deeds – proof of ownership and therefore capable of being sold despite having no value outside the RoC.

Doesn’t it seem hypocritical that the RoC has finally decided that what the TRNC has done is perfectly acceptable? Pre-2004 they could have got away with it by explaining that they were a sovereign state and could do what they liked but now, with the help of Mr A, it has been established that all refugee land belongs to the original owner and anyone on that land is a trespasser and should leave immediately.

The second and more immediate threat is the prospect of Banks being given the go-ahead to repossess homes mortgaged by the builders/landowners after the purchaser has contracted to buy and has paid for the property.  This is a practice shared throughout Cyprus and is an abomination, allowed and supported by archaic laws and a lack of will, on the part of both Governments, to do anything about it.  There is talk of a committee being formed to investigate this practice but, as we all know, this is just an attempt to avoid action which is needed now and not when hundreds of families, throughout Cyprus, are thrown out of their homes.

The third and perhaps the most insidious threat comes from some Turkish Cypriot landowners who, on the basis of a points system, were given land to compensate for that which they were forced to leave behind in the south.   In return they forfeited the original Koçan which is held by the TRNC government. The alleged ‘scam’ appears to be that having sold the land they were given in the north, mainly to ex pats, the  Turkish Cypriot vendor goes to the south, professes to have lost the original Koçan and  tries to claim back the land they left in the there, thus getting two bites of the cherry.   Surely it wouldn’t be impossible to have some co-operation between the north and south to stop this happening.  I would point out this is just a few Turkish Cypriots allegedly doing this; the majority would not stoop so low.

Hindsight is wonderful and we all have 20/20 vision when it comes to looking at the past.  The fact that in these very hard times a mass exodus of ex-pats would cripple the TRNC economy seems to be common knowledge to everyone except the Government. The Government needs to wake up and do what they were elected to do – GOVERN without fear or favour.

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