Paphos Mayor Phedon Phedonos on Saturday called for talks at the presidential palace to discuss migration, a day after anti-riot police intervened to break up a fight between unaccompanied minors at a hotel in the King of the Tombs area.
Five minors were slightly injured during the row on Friday afternoon, two of whom were taken to Paphos hospital A&E, treated and discharged.
Police managed to stop the situation from escalating, remaining at the scene until the early hours of Saturday.
The incident happened when the two groups of unaccompanied minors got into a physical altercation during a game of football, CNA reported.
The mayor first posted videos on his Facebook page showing youngsters throwing plastic chairs as they chased each other around the pool and outside the hotel, posing the question: “This is what happens at the hotel in Paphos where unaccompanied minors are hosted. There are political responsibilities for the failure of the state to manage this issue. Will anyone shoulder them? Surely not.”
He then made statements to the media, calling for a high-level meeting with the participation of local authorities and urging the government to implement effective policies since, he argued, migration flows and thousands of asylum-seekers would remain an issue for the next ten to 20 years.
The mayor stressed that he was not xenophobic, but said parties, government, the ministers and the president himself must all address the issue.
Cyprus has been struggling to cope with a surge in irregular migrants, many of them from African countries who cross into the government-controlled areas from the buffer zone. Many are housed in over-stretched reception facilities in torrid conditions.
With the number of asylum seekers per capita the highest in the EU, the government has sought help from the EU as it tries to restrict entries by stepping up policing along the green line, accelerating the processing of applications and increasing the number of returns of those whose bid for international applications fails.
The minors involved in Friday’s incident were taken to Paphos in recent weeks after an uproar over the conditions they were living in at the Pournara facility. An initial plan to take them to the Famagusta area collapsed after the hotel there withdrew its interest amid complaints from the mayor that it would damage tourism.
Phedonos said that when he was asked whether the town of Paphos could accept these unaccompanied minors without protest, he had replied in the affirmative, even though reports indicate that some are not underage, as he thought they were young children fleeing war.
But since they were taken to the hotel in Paphos, they do not appear to be under the responsibility of social workers, or to be receiving an education, nor did it appear that any effort was being made to teach them Greek, he added.
Moreover, residents in the area have been complaining since the minors were relocated there, the mayor said.
Phedonos also cited the latest population census which showed that 38 per cent of the population of Paphos district in 2021 were foreign nationals. “With what is happening in the past six months the figure has gone up to 40 per cent,” he added. The 40 per cent includes Pontian Greeks and others from Europe and third countries who have been living in Paphos for 30 to 40 years, have learnt Greek and have been assimilated, he noted.
However, Paphos cannot sustain continuing to absorb and assimilate as it is at its limits, and the biggest victim was education, he said.
Here the education ministry has failed the mayor added since combined with unfettered trade unionism by primary school teachers’ union Poed regarding their teaching hours, 12 per cent of pupils do not speak Greek even though they may be in their fourth or fifth year of primary school. Indicatively, he said that in some classes 70 to 80 per cent of children in some classes cannot count to ten in Greek.
Paphos was sounding the alarm, as it could not cope with additional inflow and central planning was essential, he concluded.