A group of some 40 Israelis were expelled from Cyprus on Tuesday after they were stopped on their way to hotels in the northern section of the island, which has been occupied by Turkey since 1974.
The measure came as Cypriot authorities enforced a crackdown against visits to the area, a popular vacation destination. Under Cypriot law, tourists are forbidden from entering Cyprus from the occupied north and face expulsion if they do. Those who arrive in Cyprus with the intention of continuing on to Turkish-held areas can also be stopped.
The Israeli tourists arrived at Larnaca airport in the Republic of Cyprus but when they revealed to authorities they were planning to continue on to hotels in the north, they were detained and eventually sent back to Israel.
In the past the Foreign Ministry made diplomatic efforts to ensure that there were no difficulties despite the travel laws, but Cypriot authorities have recently begun enforcing the restrictions.
The Cypriot embassy told Hadashot (formerly Channel 2) news, “Any tourist who arrives in Cyprus with the aim of vacationing in the territories occupied by Turkey is breaking Cypriot law and risks being returned to his country of departure.”
According to the Ynet news site, the recently expelled Israelis were warned against trying to reach northern Cyprus by the Cypriot embassy before they began their trip.
Two days ago the Foreign Ministry issued a reminder of a previous travel advisory against visiting northern Cyprus. The advisory said that anyone entering Cyprus from the northern territory would receive a black mark in their passport and be banned from returning to Cyprus for 10 years. Offenders could also be fined or face up to 12 months in prison.
The warning noted that vacationers heading for hotels on a blacklist issued by the Cypriots may be be prevented from entering Cyprus.
Ynet said the blacklist includes about 100 hotels that were taken over from Greek residents who fled in 1974 when Turkey invaded.
Since September the Cypriots have been detaining dozens of Israelis on their way to north Cyprus, claiming their destination hotels are stolen property, the report said.
Turkey invaded Cyprus in July 1974 following a coup on the island that it opposed. About 150,000 Greek Cypriots were expelled from the areas captured by the Turkish army. In 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus declared its independence, although it is not recognized by the international community or the United Nations, which see the area as occupied.