The brawl among young Syrian refugees living in Chlorakas a couple of weeks ago was a spark for unrest and protests by locals, who have been demanding the relocation of migrants saying the area has been turned into a ‘concentration camp’. On Saturday a few dozen locals held a second demonstration in the village demanding that the authorities moved the refugees to another place because they had turned Chlorakas into a ‘ghetto’.
Protesters were quoted as saying there was fear and insecurity among the community also claiming that their children were afraid to go outside. A banner used in the first protest demanded “Put Cypriots first” and no “No more fake refugees,” prompting accusations of racism against residents. Migrants support group Kisa had filed a complaint with the police and the attorney-general against the head of the Chlorakas community council, Nicolas Liasides, for hate speech and incitement to violence.
Meanwhile, on Monday residents of the apartment complex in Chlorakas, in which some 600, mainly Syrian migrants live, held a protest outside the Paphos water development department because the water supply of the complex had been cut off because of financial disputes among the tenants, the authorities and the owners. Does any type of dispute justify cutting off the water of supply to people’s homes? Would the authorities have cut the water supply if Cypriots lived in the complex?
Could this have been an attempt by the Paphos authorities to force the migrants to leave the apartment complex? It would be scandalous if it were, but also an indication of the authorities not knowing what to do. While the government wants them to leave it has not offered housing anywhere else for them. If and when a place is chosen for their relocation, would the locals welcome the migrants with open arms or would they set up street barricades to prevent them coming?
There are simply no easy solutions, and the situation has become unmanageable because the government never had a plan for dealing with the growing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers. A big number was sent to Chlorakas – in the customary slapdash manner – where now, according to the interior ministry, 1,500 of the village’s 4,000 residents are Syrians. This has changed the demography of the village and the insecurity felt by the locals is understandable to an extent. In fact, the interior ministry recognised there was a problem, which the absence of a policy had created, and issued a decree not long ago barring any more Syrians settling in Chlorakas.
Now, nobody really knows what to do about the tension between the locals and the migrants which could explode into violence. For now, until the government decides what it will do, there should be a strong police presence in the village to ensure there are no incidents that could get out of control.