Lord Patel posted on Thursday, October 18, 2007 about the newly opened ferry services - Syria / Turkey / Cyprus in spat over new Famagusta - Latakia Ferry Services ....remarking "This does not have anything to do with Cyprus being used as an entrepot port for human trafficking, money laundering, drug shipments, not at all, nothing, nada."
Well consider this report from The Cyprus Mail on January 8th ;
THE CONTROVERSIAL ferry service between occupied Famagusta and Latakia in Syria has been temporarily suspended after Georgia struck the vessel from its flag, mainland Turkish Daily News (TDN) has reported.
“The matter is a technical one. Georgia is looking to clear its image that has been tarnished as many ships operate under the Georgian flag illegally, and the issue has no direct link with Greek Cypriot pressure on Georgia,” a Turkish diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, told the TDN.
TDN said Georgia had bowed to pressure from the Greek Cypriot side in cancelling the registration despite pleas from Ankara not to do so.
The ferry service began in October to great fanfare but has not been doing well and recently cut back to one trip a week from two due to average passenger numbers of around 20 people per trip even though the vessel has the capacity for 297.
The other problem that arose was that the service turned into a convenient passageway – not for day trippers from Syria visiting the north, but for illegal immigrants wishing to gain entry to the Republic of Cyprus.
Even Turkish Cypriot police expressed their concern over the number of immigrants the ferry was bringing in, saying the vast majority of passengers had disappeared once they landed in the north.
During the same two-month period, November and December, Greek Cypriot police arrested dozens of people who had crossed into the south, most of whom had used the ferry to travel to Cyprus.
According to TDN, which sent one of its reporters on the journey, the ferry is “essentially a heavily subsidised ghost ship carrying a fraction of its capacity on each journey”. “Of those who do pay the $150 fare for the four-hour passage, most if not all aboard the Su are seeking to travel beyond disembarkation in northern Cyprus onto Greek Cyprus in the south, a member of the EU with all that membership implies for the refugees seeking a new life amid the allure of asylum,” TDN said.
“On the TDN's voyage aboard the Su, the ship left Latakia harbour with a record manifest. The 140 passengers comprised the largest number on any trip since the service began… at least two-thirds were Iraqi or Palestinian refugees who said they had forsaken hopes of a better life in Syria and were now moving on to try their chances further West.”
Since the route’s inception, Cyprus has been trying to persuade Syria to put a stop to the service and said recently they had been given assurances from Damascus that the ferry would be stopped."
In a reply to a question European MP Marios Matsakis regarding the ferry service between occupied Famagusta and Syria, EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said the use of ports in the north was not prohibited.“Based on the general principles of international law, entry and exit of vessels from sea ports in the northern part of Cyprus is not prohibited,” Rehn is quoted as saying in an announcement released by Matsakis.“The Commission is not in a position to intervene regarding the Syrian authorities,” the EU official said.