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Asylum seekers set fires, cause ruckus at Kofinou, two remanded (Update2 )

Two men, aged 24 and 25, from Eritrea were remanded in custody for six days on Saturday after riots broke out at an asylum reception centre in Kofinou during which rubbish bins were torched and installations damaged.

The court heard the two suspects and another man, also from Eritrea, started protesting on Friday night at 9.30pm because the authorities had decided not to grant them a monthly stipend after they refused to work.

The centre’s personnel tried to calm the men however, they started smashing things and instigating others to join in.

Police officers from the local station arrived on the scene but instead of calming down the situation escalated with protesters placing desks, chairs, and large plastic rubbish bins in the centre’s main road and setting them alight.

The fire service was called to the scene but at their sight, the protesters started hurling stones and other objects at the police and the fire fighters.

Meanwhile, they caused damage to the prefabricated buildings used as dormitories and offices.

More officers arrived at the centre along with negotiators who tried to communicate with the rioters only to be met by stones.

The authorities responded by dispatching riot units and at 1.40am on Saturday they entered the centre and secured the area.

At around 3am, the court heard, a Palestinian man staying at the centre went to police station and reported that he had been assaulted by one of the rioters who hit him in the head with a brick. The man had suffered injury near his right eye.

Two hours later, one of workers at the centre noticed a fire at one of the prefabricated buildings near the entrance. The fire was put out by the fire service after causing extensive damage to the interior.

Four men from Eritrea were identified as the instigators of the trouble and police issued warrants for their arrest. They managed to locate two of them and had to fire warning shots in the air to disperse the crowd and make the arrests. Police arrested a third person later Saturday while the other one remains at large.

Following the arrests, a number of asylum seekers walked to the police station at Kofinou and remained there for hours demanding to see the suspects. They claimed that the two men had nothing to do with the riots.

The protest ended without any incident.

The Eritrean asylum seekers arrived in Cyprus from Italy under an EU relocation programme among member-states.

Interior Ministry permanent secretary Kypros Kyprianou visited Kofinou later Saturday.

He said 40 individuals from Eritrea were relocated to Cyprus in the past two-three months under the EU programme.

“One of their demands is to return to Italy,” he told reporters. “But what caused last night’s vandalisms was them being informed they would not receive the guaranteed minimum income (€480) because they refused to work.

Kyprianou said the law on GMI applied to all citizens of the republic without exception.



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