Recent incidents of mostly young Cypriot men in Chlorakas taking the law into their own hands, apparently against members of the Syrian community, have led the police to intervene, warning individuals that their behaviour is unlawful and racist.
The two hot spots where the groups are operating are in Yeroskippou and to a far worse extent, Chlorakas, according to Paphos police spokesman, Michalis Ioannou.
Both areas have seen an increase in crime, particularly burglaries and theft, which is posing a ‘big problem’ police say.
A number of locals, mostly young Cypriot men, have mobilised into groups to ensure that ‘law and order’ was established in Chlorakas, Ioannou said.
The groups were stopping both cars and pedestrians in the area ’checking’ that they weren’t up to anything illegal, he said. Their targets are mostly Syrians.
“I have to stress that only the police are permitted to undertake such actions and these groups have no right to patrol or try to prevent crime, this is down to the police,” Ioannou told the Cyprus Mail on Wednesday.
The murder of a Syrian man in Chlorakas in Paphos on April 10 is the most violent in a number of incidents that is spreading disquiet among residents and has forced the community leader to appeal for state help.
A large number of recent Syrian arrivals have been housed in overcrowded tourist accommodation in the area.
According to Ioannou, a group of around of around ten or so Syrian men are the main cause for concern and he stressed that locals must understand that this only involves a tiny minority, as is the case generally with all residents of all nationalities.
“There are many Syrian families in the area and the vast majority of Syrian residents are good citizens,” he said.
Akel has condemned what it described the groups’ reprehensible beahviour of intimidating refugees and immigrants in the community.
“Such behaviors permeate racism and xenophobia. They are cultivating the ground for extreme nationalist elements to take over the situation,” Akel’s district committee said in a statement. “These actions are reprehensible and therefore should be immediately investigated by the coordinating authorities of the state who are also responsible for maintaining security and order in our country.”
Ioannou said that if anyone suspects or witnesses an incident or crime, they must immediately contact the police, who will take the necessary actions, and not attempt to take the law into their own hands.
“Police from the Paphos division and headquarters have had to explain legislation many times to local Cypriots, especially in Chlorakas. There have been problems with a handful of members of the Syrian community recently, but we are dealing with it,” he said.
Akel noted that there has been an increase in the number of problems of ‘delinquency’ by foreigners both in Chlorakas and Yeroskippou, and the authorities should act immediately and effectively to deal with them.
“The ghettoisation of foreigners is created due to the non-implementation of integration programmes into society,” they said.
Ioannou added that the self-styled security groups had also been warned by officers that posting xenophobic or racist comments on Facebook and other social media is racist and against the law.
“We have many patrols in Chlorakas and the police are doing everything to prevent any problems between the two communities. At present the situation is quiet and calm,” he said.