British Bases areas customs and immigration officials said measures relating to COVID-19 test certificates at crossing points in Pergamos and Strovilia have led to some arrests for providing false documentation.
Measures introduced at the crossing points since the pandemic was declared earlier this year, mean people making the journey from the Turkish Occupied Areas must provide proof of a negative test to be allowed entry.
Head of SBA Customs and Immigration in Dhekelia, Adam Chatfield, said that despite there now being fewer people crossing between north and south, COVID-19 has created a whole new challenge to his team.
“We have had three separate cases where a false COVID-19 test has been detected, which is a total of eight certificates.
“Forged COVID certificates are a new type of case for us having only recently been a requirement for travel and as such, no case has been through the courts yet but there are two live investigations that are due to appear before the court.
“Where an offence is committed, officers will refer the prosecution to SBA Police who we then work closely with to gather the evidence required.
“We have seen a huge decrease in traffic crossing into the SBAs due to the travel restrictions and although there is a lot less traffic, the officers at the checkpoints are carrying out extensive checks on those that are crossing.
“Officers have had to adapt to ever-changing procedures to keep up with changing travel policies and the latest detections have shown the hard work and determination that the officers have put in over the last few months.”
But despite the checks on those crossing over and the latest training in identifying forged documents, Chatfield said it has been a challenge his team have embraced.
“Officers are well trained in detecting forged travel documents and use this knowledge and experience to identify false COVID-19 certificates.”
“When a document is suspected of being forged, officers conduct checks with the laboratory where the certificate was issued.
“The COVID-19 certificates are not issued in the same way as travel documents and this means the certificates do not have the security features that we would expect to see.
This means that detecting a false certificate can be difficult and officers will rely on their questioning and checks to establish the authenticity of the document.”
If an individual cannot provide the correct documentation at the crossing point, they will be refused entry and according to the customs chief, the number of refusals has increased.
“Officers refuse persons entry if they do not meet the current COVID-19 travel restrictions and we have seen an increase in refusals due to lack of COVID certificate, expired certificates or because they are neither a legal resident nor hold Cypriot nationality.”