Time Running out in the hunt for 1,964 missing persons
TIME is running out in the hunt to find the 1,964 missing persons of Cyprus, Marina Yannakoudakis MEP has warned.
The 1,464 Greek Cypriots and 502 Turkish Cypriots went missing during the 1974 Turkish invasion of Cyprus as well as in civil unrest in 1964.
Mrs Yannakoudakis, Conservative MEP for London, delivered her message after a visit to Cyprus to meet members of the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus (CMP).
Speaking at a press conference in Finchley, North London, she explained: ‘I have taken on this cause as it’s a humanitarian issue which needs support and for which time is running out. In reality, regretfully what we are talking about are the remains of these people.’
Mrs Yannakoudakis called for more funds to help the hunt. The EU has donated £2million to assist the CMP.
She explained: ’There have been 562 sets of remains found to date on the island, and 290 burial sites opened. It should be stressed that of the 290 sites, 159 did not contain any human remains.
‘As those hunting for remains depend so much on witnesses coming forward with information so they can the look for the bodies, time is running out. Many of the witnesses are old and will not survive much longer. Many of the parents, brothers, sisters and friends looking for the missing are also ageing. So it’s important that the CMP works quickly as time is running out.’
She said: ‘These people are not just statistics; they are men and women, boys and girls, aged from five to 80, not only soldiers but civilians. They had families, hopes and dreams like all of us. They had things they wanted to achieve, they had people they were responsible for and people who were responsible for them. They had names – Andreas, Christos, Anastasia. They should not be forgotten. Finding the missing people of Cyprus will not solve the Cyprus problem. But it will be a decent humane move to give the families the peace they have been denied for 35 years and ensure a decent respectful burial for these people.’
Mrs Yannakoudakis also said more pressure should be put on the governments of Turkey and Cyprus to come forward with information.
She added: ‘I believe it has to be made clear that what has happened in the past is in the past. We need to move forward and people who offer information should do so without fear of reprisal. This fear is the reason many are holding back.
‘Some feel the CMP should not only be looking for burial sites but also be looking to how and why the people died. I personally understand the need for people to want to know more about the circumstances of the death of the loved one, but for us to be able to support the work of the CMP and for them to work faster they need to be able to investigate without the fear of reprisals.’
The CMP employs approximately 80 people, and has eight teams consisting of investigators and people who deal with the burial sites. There are four teams looking in Northern Cyprus and two teams in the rest of the island.
For more information contact Mark Walker on 0032 2284 7692.