In the seat of Hindmarsh where I am MP, I represent many Cypriot Australians, many who made their homes in the western suburbs of Adelaide after the 1974 occupation of their homeland and found themselves here as refugees.
In 1974, as we all know, the island of Cyprus was occupied – and 37 per cent of that island still remains occupied.
Since then, a so-called state has been declared, but it has been recognised by only one nation in the entire world —and it just happens, ironically, to be the nation that invaded in 1974. There are still 1,619 people missing.
These people are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. We have, in that 37 per cent of the island, homes where the owners have not been allowed to return. They are still not allowed to return, and 43 years is far too long to still be waiting for a solution.
Many UN resolutions have been called for, basically having the same principle: respect for the human rights of all the people of the island. Here in Australia, we can play a role, and many politicians including myself have raised this issue, and many of my colleagues in the South Australian parliament have also raised the issue. When you travel to Cyprus, as I have many times, both as an individual and as part of parliamentary delegations representing Australia, it is an absolute tragedy to see the situation that exists. I have gone along the green line, the demilitarised zone that divides the island.
I have spoken with the Australian UN peacekeeping people that have been there over the years, including the Australian Federal Police (AFP), who have made such a wonderful contribution to patrolling this zone since 1974. It is a real shame and the wrong decision that they are being dismantled by the Australian government, after the announcement at this year’s budget. The AFP played such an important peace keeping and policing role.
We can play a bigger and better role. Of course, we can raise this issue here in parliament, as I have done many times but most importantly, Australia can play a role in providing for the implementation of UN resolutions.
Everyone I speak to and to everyone that I raise this issue with all have the same view – that 43 years is way too long. I know that talks have been taking place recently between the two communities and different nations that have an involvement. We all wish and hope that they get back on track and for a solution very soon.