[FONT=Helvetica] FOREIGN nationals are no longer being issued a Cyprus ID card, a decision implemented islandwide last Friday without explanation or notification from the Interior Ministry.
Several readers who contacted the Cyprus Mail said they were simply refused the card and that officials lower down on the food chain who were dealing with the public were not told why. They all said they were sent a circular from the ministry simply saying the cards could no longer be issued to non-Cypriots.
“I was told I couldn’t renew my ID card even though no one could tell me why,” said Briton Elisabeth Dahl who made enquiries at the Nicosia Citizens’ Advice Bureau yesterday morning. “What am I supposed to do now? Carry my passport with me at all times?” she asked.
Like others who asked, Dahl was not able to get any answers from lower-ranking officials.
Yesterday the Cyprus Mail managed to track down migration chief Anny Shakalli who said a problem had arisen and was ongoing when it came to travel restrictions.
“Many [non-Cypriot nationals] thought they could use their [Cyprus] ID as a travel document within the EU which is not the case,” Shakalli said, adding that the only cards that can be used in place of passport within the bloc are those issued by the EU member country of which someone is a national.
EU nationals carrying Cypriot ID cards cannot use them for travel just as a Cypriot national living in another EU member state with an ID issued in that country could not use the card for travel. Only EU nationals with ID cards issued in their country of origin are able to use them for travelling within the bloc.
According to airport officials, the ID card travel issue was becoming a problem at the island’s airports.
Police’s head of airport immigration’s Emilios Lambrou said: “People would come in the airport using their ID card and we had to turn them away…you understand that when someone shows up and they’re all set to go they get upset, especially if the miss their flight,” Lambrou said.
However, given that many of the Cyprus ID cards have a shelf life of up to ten years, the issue could continue to be a problem, especially as the authorities appear not to have taken any steps to inform the public that the cards will no longer be issued as they are not valid for travel.
Shakalli yesterday refused to comment as to why there was no information campaign or why no reasons were given to people who asked for an explanation, other than a circular to out offices where staff were also unable to give explanations.
She said the interior ministry is currently looking at introducing a new type of card to replace the troublesome non-national Cyprus ID card. It will be called a residence card and will look similar to an ID card, she said
The new residence permits with biometric data should arrive by the end of the year, Shakalli said, adding that negotiations were already underway.
In the meantime, those whose Cyprus ID’s are expired will not be able to renew them or change them for the not-yet-ready resident’s card, which has left some people miffed.
“What if I have to prove my identity for some reason?” said one Paphos expat.
“Having an ID card is very handy, otherwise the alternative will be to carry a passport around or even more official documents which is not on.”
Shakalli said the correct document – other than passport - for non-Cypriots to use to go about their daily business until the news cards are in circulation, is the Aliens Registration Certificate (ARC).