British expatriates who have approved residency status have the chance to return to the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC) next week, alongside TRNC citizens who are permanently resident in the country.
Cyprus Paradise – the largest tour operator to North Cyprus – is laying on a repatriation charter flight for Tuesday, 23 June, from London Stansted Airport to Ercan Airport.
The 188-seat aircraft is scheduled to take off from Stansted at 10am on Tuesday morning, and land at Ercan at 6.25pm local time.
Due to the embargoes on the TRNC, there is a compulsory touch-down in Turkey. However, as with previous repatriation flights, there will be no disembarkation. Passengers will stay on the plane, which will take off for Ercan after a short stop.
As revealed in T-VINE revealedon Wednesday, some 200 expatriates stranded in Britain have been cleared to return to their homes in the TRNC. They had been barred from re-entering the country for the past three months due to measures imposed by the Turkish Cypriot government to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
Cyprus Paradise, which has organised seven repatriation flights between Britain and North Cyprus since the lockdown was introduced in March, is now arranging one specifically for the expatriates. However, T-VINE understands there is some room for TRNC citizens.
A spokesperson for the tour operator told T-VINE that it was “perhaps the last opportunity” for citizens to be on a repatriation flight from London in June, and that while quarantine “isn’t popular” for anyone, TRNC citizens returning to North Cyprus this month “won’t have to pay for their quarantine, although they will from July 1st onwards.”
Currently it is mandatory for all arrivals to do two weeks in quarantine in a government-designated centre, but only foreigners pay. From next month, arrivals from high-risk countries such as Britain, Brazil and the USA, must still do quarantine and all pay their own quarantine costs, which is 4,400 TL, or £510, per person.
The London-based, ATOL-protected company is working with the TRNC’s Ministry of Interior, which has supplied the firm with the list of approved British expats. T-VINE understands they have now all been contacted by email informing them of the repatriation flight, which was initially planned for Saturday, but was delayed by a few days for “operational reasons.”
It is understood those flying back on Tuesday will be accommodated in Girne’s Riverside Resort, which the tour operator said has “nice large rooms, queen-size single beds and internet”, so it should be a “pleasant stay” for those being quarantined for a fortnight.
An email sent by Cyprus Paradise to the expats on Wednesday, 17 June, seen by T-VINE, stated:
“Riverside Resort in Alsancak has been designated by the officials as the location to spend your quarantine period. The price for the whole package including one-way flight ticket from London STN to Ercan airport, 14 night accommodation, Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, accompanied by complimentary water or soft drinks during meal times including transfer from Ercan to the resort is £870.00 per person.
“Your luggage allowance will be 20KG. There is no hand luggage allowance due to Civil Aviation requirements except a small belt bag or a ladies bag or a laptop bag not exceeding 3KG.”
British expats were given a 24-hour priority booking slot. Remaining spaces are now being offered to TRNC citizens with permanent residency who also wish to return. They will need to be approved for admission into the TRNC before they travel.
Sonya Karafistan, the Secretary for the Council of Turkish Cypriot Associations in Britain (CTCA UK), advised any Turkish Cypriot interested in “flying home” on Tuesday to contact Cyprus Paradise as soon as possible, so they can secure permission from the TRNC authorities.
“Those who want to be on Tuesday’s repatriation flight should send in their full name, kimlik (TRNC ID card) number and contact details as quickly as possible. Email email@example.com.”
“They will liaise with the TRNC London Office, so passengers’ travel approval from Lefkoşa and flight bookings can be processed quickly.”
The CTCA has played a major part in the repatriation effort between Britain and the TRNC throughout the pandemic, helping to pull together lists of those needing repatriation, providing information and advice to affected people, and lobbying the British and Turkish Cypriot authorities for action.
Ms Karafistan was the first to expose the plight of stranded British expats in April. She told T-VINE that there is “sheer relief and almost disbelief” among the group she has been interacting with that after three months they are finally heading back to their homes in the TRNC.
She said, “We as CTCA are delighted the expats will be finally reconciled with family and friends in North Cyprus. It’s disappointing that they have had to wait so long. They have invested in the TRNC and made it their home. They should have been allowed to return on the earlier repatriation flights, along with TRNC citizens.”