NICOSIA - Taxi drivers are warning that illegal, unlicensed cabbies are putting tourists’ lives at risk and giving Cyprus a bad reputation ahead of the summer season.
Speaking to The Cyprus Daily, president of the Nicosia Taxi Drivers Coordinating Committee Akis Demosthenous described the illegal cab trade as the single biggest problem facing the industry - one which the state has thus far failed to take seriously.
“There has been a definite increase in the number of illegal taxis especially in coastal towns. Their prices may seem appealing but we are urging passengers to think about the problems they will face if there is an accident resulting in personal injury.”
According to Demosthenous, cowboy drivers steal business by offering cheaper rates, which they can afford to do by sidestepping all the expenses licenced drivers have.
“Insurance for a legitimate taxi driver costs around €1,000 per year but there are many other expenses such as the licence fee, social insurance, VAT and the costs related with driving a safe and reliable car,” explained Dimosthenous. “Illegal drivers use private cars and do not have any of these costs and certainly do not concern themselves with any of the safety regulations.”
The illicit industry, according to the Committee, is becoming increasingly brash and has even started advertising its illegal services.
“There are many foreign language newspapers and websites in Cyprus that advertise illegal taxi services and if the authorities continue to allow this the legitimate industry will not last much longer.”
According to Demosthenous, as prosecutions against illegal cabbies are extremely rare most are willing to risk being caught as they rake in lucrative amounts from their illegal trade.
“These drivers usually target tourists so when a case is opened the victim is asked to testify before court. Of course, by the time the court date arrives the tourist has returned to their home country and usually says they cannot come back to Cyprus leading to the case been thrown out.”
Demosthenous added that the Committee has repeatedly asked Parliament to introduce on the spot fines for unlicensed drivers but the suggestion has fallen on deaf ears.
“The authorities should begin to show interest over the problems we are facing as they are giving Cyprus a bad reputation. If a visitor to the island gets into an unlicensed taxi and is hurt or killed in a crash it will have a very negative impact on our tourist industry.”