Speaking at the TRNC Assembly during discussions on the budget, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Kudret Özersay said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched a project to encourage the return of the Turkish Cypriots living abroad to the TRNC, and added that the project will be shared with the public soon.

Emphasising that the new policy will be based on the data and numbers collected, Özersay said, “Our citizens, who have been neglected so far, are very important for us and we will do what is necessary for them.”

Announcing that the government plans to launch an active policy regarding Turkish Cypriots living abroad, Özersay said: “We should all understand that the Turkish Cypriots are not a minority and never will be. If we look beyond the island we can see that the Turkish Cypriot population as a whole is substantial, however, it is obvious that not enough has been done so far. Our government is working on this issue.”

“We know that our people have their hearts and their roots in Cyprus. I cannot say that all of them have the desire to return to the island but I can say that all of them are homesick. Many had to leave the country because of difficulties they experienced. The government needs data and numbers on this issue in order to develop policies, therefore we have begun a study to collect information” said Minister Özersay.

Özersay said that the official start of the project would be in June in London. Pointing out the importance of recording Turkish Cypriots living abroad, whether in the UK, İstanbul or Australia, Minister Özersay said that the aim of the project is not only to ascertain the number of Turkish Cypriots living abroad, but also to classify information about these citizens.

Özersay continued as follows, “We will also have an initiative related to population census held in the UK in every 10 years. Within this framework, some questions will be integrated into the census to identify the number and occupations of Turkish Cypriots as well as other related data. This project will be undertaken with the participation of Turkish Cypriots in the UK.”

The Foreign Minister also said that after the data has been gathered, it will be used to determine which policies will be introduced in the future. Özersay stressed that during their last official visit to Turkey, this issue was on the agenda, and the Turkish Republic gave full support to the project. Özersay also outlined the advantages of this project for the country, such as the right to elect and be elected, which has frequently been discussed. The Deputy Prime Minister also mentioned the important role for the Turkish Cypriots living abroad in terms of soft power and active lobbying activities, through which they can make serious contributions to the TRNC. Özersay said that starting from today, through certain legal arrangements, these people can be encouraged to contribute in the TRNC, and that this question is not only related to the right to elect and be elected.

Özersay also said that there is currently no unanimous agreement in the government on this right for those who live abroad, and added that all legal measures which will encourage investment to the country should be encouraged. “Collecting data is extremely important for this policy to be determined” Özersay stressed.

“I want to highlight this issue. When examining the constitution, the right to be elected is only possible by constitutional amendment due to the permanent residence clause, however, the right to elect is an issue which can come into effect through some amendments to the law. First, we must establish the number of people who qualify, and then examine the potential conditions for granting this right to elect. Currently, a study for gathering data about the Turkish Cypriots living abroad and developing a policy is being done by the Deputy Prime Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs on behalf of our government” Özersay said.