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Is there evidence of denial of housing/housing rights for certain ethnic groups?

Key Area:
Housing & Segregation
Racism, Discrimination
15/02/2012 - 19:08
Short Answer


Qualitative Info

The housing of the Roma is provided by the state. The 2009 RAXEN Thematic Study for Cyprus on the Housing of Roma and Travellers revealed that the existence of a mixed situation, with some houses in a good state of repair and others in a derelict condition. The location of the Roma housing was more problematic than its habitability, as the designated settlements were purposely set up in remote rural areas to appease hostile local communities. 

Turkish Cypriot properties is more of a complex issue. In the situation that developed following the 1974 war, the properties left behind by the Turkish Cypriots who moved to the north of the country were placed under the control of the Minister of the Interior, under the  institution of the ‘Guardian of Turkish Cypriot Properties’ which was set up by Law containing Temporary Provisions for the Administration of Turkish Cypriot Properties in the Republic and other related matters N.139/1991. For years the Guardian would deny all Turkish Cypriots the right of use of their properties. In 2004, in the landmark case of Arif Mustafa v. The Republic (Supreme Court of Cyprus Case no.125/2004) the Court recognised the right of the Turkish Cypriot applicant to reside in his home. The applicant had been forced to abandon his property in 1974 as part of the forceful movement of population exercised at the time. Since then, his property was under the control of the Guardian. This right however was restricted to those Turkish Cypriots who reside in the Republic-controlled area (south) for a period not less than six months. Turkish Cypriots who do not ordinarily reside in the south are still denied the right to use their properties.  An amendment to the Guardian Law in 2010 introduced two significant changes. One of these amendments, to be found in Article 3, now entitles the Guardian to lift the ‘protection’ afforded to Turkish Cypriot properties after taking into consideration the circumstances of each case and balance all factors, including whether the Turkish Cypriot owner or his/her heirs or successors in title occupy property belonging to a Greek Cypriot in the north. The provision further states that the following factors shall, inter alia, be counted positively towards the return of the property to its owner:
(a) when the property came under the control of the Guardian, the owner had his habitual residence abroad where he had travelled to at any time before or after the Turkish invasion of 1974 and the said owner continues to reside there or has returned or is due to return from abroad for permanent settlement in the areas controlled by the Republic;
(b) after the property came under the control of the Guardian, the Turkish Cypriot owner settled permanently in the south and continues to reside there uninterruptedly;
(c) the property was the owner’s residence prior to the Turkish invasion and the owner intends to use it again as his residence and to settle in the Republic-controlled areas.

The wording of the law is such that these criteria are not exhaustive and that the Guardian has a wider discretion to allow the return of a property to its Turkish Cypriot owner. At the same time, the theme that permeates these criteria is a loosely interpreted ‘allegiance’ to the Republic of Cyprus by choosing it as the place for permanent residence. Therefore any decision of the Guardian to return a property to its Turkish Cypriot owner beyond the aforesaid criteria will probably have to be within the spirit of the lawmaker (i.e. contain an element of ‘allegiance’ to the Republic in order to be accepted by the Court. The institution of the Guardian and the denial of the right of use of Turkish Cypriot properties by thier owners are currently being challenged before the ECHR by a number of Turkish Cypriot property owners.

Migrants are also faced with a tough regime as regards securing rented accomodation. A qualitative survey conducted in May 2010 by Insights Market Research in cooperation with the European University of Nicosia on behalf of the Socialist Women’s Movement,[1] which investigated the views and experiences of women from Britain, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece and Pontos living in Cyprus, revealed that Pontian, Bulgarian and Romanian women faced difficulties in securing living accommodation as most landlords did not want to rent to them. One interviewee reported having contacted a landlord who advertised for a flat for rent and as soon as she told him she was from Bulgaria he told her the flat had been rented. She then asked a Cypriot colleague to call the same landlord and the Cypriot colleague was told it was available and she could view it whenever she wanted. Pontian women living in Cyprus also reported facing problems of racism in their neighbourhood and in their children’s schools. Like their Romanian and Bulgarian counterparts, Pontian interviewees also reported difficulties in finding living accommodation. One Pontian woman who had bought a house in Nicosia reported being told by her lady vendor that she (the vendor) had told the neighbours that she (the interviewee) was Greek because “they [the neighbours] did not want Pontians in the neighbourhood.”

[1] The method used was eight focus groups lasting from 90 minutes to two hours. The results of the survey were presented in a press conference on 04.10.2010.


Data N/a
Groups affected/interested Migrants, Roma & Travelers, Ethnic minorities
Type (R/D) Anti-migrant/xenophobia, Anti-roma/zinghanophobia, Inter-ethnic
Key socio-economic / Institutional Areas Housing
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