South to introduce ‘Green Line Watch’ to curb smuggling

Plans are being made to try and stop illegal trafficking of goods across the Green Line which divides the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the programme would bolster police measures along the buffer zone.

“Protecting our life and property is not only the concern of the police and state authorities, but each one of us individually, local society, and local authorities,” he said.

The minister said that co-operation between law enforcement and local authorities was exceptionally important in achieving this protection.

In 2014, plastic products were the most traded item, followed by fresh fish, building materials/articles of stone and raw scrap material.

New products such as prickly pears and ready-made concrete were introduced but had a very limited impact on the trade. All the trade across the Line was intra-island and there was no export registered to other EU Member States or third countries.

“Based on the neighbourhood watch model, the programme aims at sensitising each citizen who wishes to get involved,” the minister said.

Police will be assisted in this endeavour by farmers with land neighbouring the buffer zone as well as people who live and work in surrounding areas.

Volunteers would be trained by the police, he said, adding that it would bring the same positive results as the neighbourhood watch scheme, introduced two years ago.

The programme entails mapping the dividing line and the crossings, drafting immediate response plans and training monitors.

The aim “is none other than prevent and stamp out crime, raise the sense of security, and resolve problems facing farmers and residents in the surrounding areas,” the minister said.

At the same time, Nicolaou discouraged anyone from taking the law into their own hands or putting their life at risk.

Police chief Zaharias Chrysostomou said the basic objective was to effectively tackle illegal transport of agricultural products through the buffer zone, as well as other unlawful activities.

Chrysostomou said the main reason for the action was the transportation of agricultural products, which violated the Green Line Regulation.

Such acts affected agricultural production and farmers’ interests, as well as the economy as a whole, he said. He also pointed out the potential risk to public health.

The Green Line Regulation, adopted in 2004, sets out the terms under which persons and goods can cross the dividing line.

Trade across the divide reached around 3.5m euros in 2014, compared with 3.4m euros the previous year, a rise of 3.1%.

“Despite this slight increase, it remained at a low level,” the European Commission said, adding that it was concerned by the figures. The figures reflect widespread smuggling, according to the report.

It pointed to seasonal smuggling such as transporting game/wild birds or fire crackers via Dhekelia across to the South.

In 2014, South Cyprus authorities conducted 2,627 seizures, confiscating 140,029 cigarettes and 370,794 grams of tobacco.

The European Commission said this smuggling consisted of small quantities and was due to higher prices and higher tax in the South.

Other items seized include mainly goods violating intellectual property rights, as well as animal and dairy products.

There were no criminal cases filed in the district court for smuggling. For the majority of the reported cases, an administrative penalty is imposed.

Cyprus Mail

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