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Arenas of power.

WE EXPATS are forever complaining about Cypriot banks, conniving estate agents, the land registry, lawyers, politicians, the wilful slaughter of migrating birds, inhumane mistreatment of pets, the 'racist' or apathetic manner displayed toward us by government employees, local council taxes that specifically exploit us, the obstinate Orthodox Church monopoly to bury the dead not burn, this island's artfully corrupt kompari society that excludes us from 'arenas of power', bullyingly brutish taxi-drivers, strewn rubbish everywhere, Cypriot driving, parking ...the list is endless, but I must not forget to mention the turtles!

Surely, if we don't apply for citizenship, integrate fully, learn to speak the language and communicate 'in Rome like a Roman', we are negating any right to complain. It is, after all, their country not ours.

I can name a few who have integrated fully and do fight for the betterment of Cyprus, but they are but a few relative to the large number of expats living here, some of whom run small one-man businesses, financial 'surreptitious' services, tourist activities -- for pocket money you understand -- and don't bother to register their enterprises, or apply for a work permit, pay national insurance, fill out tax declarations, etc. and who secretly live in contempt of all things Cypriot.

As EU citizens, we don't need a residence permit, we can come and go as we like, our children can receive a free state school education, and an E121 suffices for an entire family to receive healthcare free of charge; this benefit available to UK state pensioners and holidaymakers only, and not to long term permanent resident non-pensioners. But nobody will be refused treatment whatever their credentials.

Rather than continually accuse Cypriots of being pernicious thieving monkeys, complaining expats, retired or not, should examine their own comportment vis-a-vis this island because, if Brexit comes, you might well find yourselves singing a different tune.

Six years ago, a middle-aged couple sold their three-bed central London home and purchased, for a song by comparison to London prices, a luxury apartment in Istanbul. It's called trading down -- you sell for a fortune, spend peanuts for a deluxe and end up with 'real' cash at the bank. And Istanbul of all places, overlooking the Bosphorus -- hardly Stockwell, is it?

Ahead of completion they applied for a long term residence permit. Five years they got, no questions asked. Fabulous metropolis it is; everything so cheap -- no complaints. If anything, eulogies were sung ad infinitum to friends and relatives back home inviting visitors galore to admire their Eldorado...

But when the permit renewal date arrived last year, the couple were given a 90-day tourist visa extension and told they must leave Turkey on expiry and not reapply until a further 90 days had passed; only three-month tourist visas available twice in any single year, each separated by three months. Effectively, they were 'kicked out' of the country. I hear a similar rule applies to 'retired' expats in the US -- but six months in and out instead of three.

Mind you, Turkey is hardly a safe bet these days compared to six years ago, what with mounting uncheckable terrorism, hordes of fleeing migrants/refugees, not knowing who they're at war with -- Assad's Syria, ISIL or the Kurds -- while experiencing dangerously worsening diplomatic relations with their neighbour, Russia.

Turkey has become the hotspot Syria was, and for reasons of security, she no longer welcomes 'foreigners', and let's face it, expats are foreigners whether they wear a headscarf, fez or sport an early Einstein moustache.

What the London couple failed to take into account was that Turkey is not Europe. They are now complaining, wondering whether they should have applied for citizenship when it was possible for them to do so. But was it ever, and if it was, would they have got it when not speaking the language or prepared to 'salute Kemal'?

Fortunately, immigrants/expats are not obliged to salute the flag, speak the language and be seen to support their chosen country, whether it's the UK, US or even Cyprus, and if not, kicked out.

It has been estimated by the World Bank that between4.5 million and 5.5 million Britons live abroad, that's around 7-8 per cent of the UK population. To put that in context, only about 0.8 per cent of Americans, 3 per cent of Spanish and 2.1 per cent of Australians are expats. If Brexit comes, many more Brits might leave, but few will consider rescinding their UK citizenship.

Some 4,500 Americans ditched their US citizenship in 2015 -- up 20 per cent on 2014 -- at a cost to the ditcher of $2,500, previously $450, and the third year consecutively that the ditching number has increased -- applying for citizenship elsewhere obliging US ditchers to automatically rescind their US nationality.

The same rule applies to UK citizens gaining Cyprus citizenship, but this is UK cost free.

You are what you eat and should become where you live -- a fully recognised citizen. And only then do you have voting rights with which you can effectively voice your complaints and vote/fight for change, rather than just moaning a 'foreign language' into deaf ears.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Feb 24, 2016
Words:881
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