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Police make one arrest in Pournara incident, 4 more arrests pending

a migrant walks next to burned tents in pournara refugee camp during clashes on the outskirts of nicosia
A migrant walks next to burned tents in Pournara refugee camp during clashes in Kokkinotrimithia on the outskirts of Nicosia, Cyprus Photo by Reuters

Police on Sunday arrested one person in connection to Friday’s incidents at the Pournara migrant reception centre, to facilitate authorities with their investigations.

Four more arrest warrants are pending, police said.

Clashes broke out and fires were lit at the overcrowded reception centre for migrants on Friday, police and witnesses said, necessitating authorities to break up the fighting with tear gas.

Twenty people were injured, CyBC reported.

Thick plumes of smoke were visible over parts of the Pournara reception facility, some 22 km west of the capital Nicosia.

Witnesses told Reuters people from the camp could be seen fleeing and running along a mayor road nearby with their belongings.

Police confirmed this to the Cyprus Mail, saying that due to smoke in the air, some people exited the camp in order to be able to breathe.

Reports the camp was evacuated were not confirmed by police, who said no official order had been given, but images that circulated showed people standing all along the road and in the fields near the camp.

According to reports, the two groups that were fighting were Nigerian and Congolese, and that they threw rocks and other objects at each other.

Pournara has been hosting well over its 1,000 person capacity as Cyprus struggles to cope with an influx of asylum seekers from Syria and from African countries.

Many travel to the southern part of the island through the buffer zone that separates it from the Turkish Cypriot breakaway state in the north.

Meanwhile, Disy leader and presidential candidate Averof Neophytou expressed his frustration in light of the situation and what he characterised as a lack of respect.

“I follow what is happening in Pournara with disappointment and anger. This is how every Cypriot citizen feels today. Our country has assumed much greater responsibilities and obligations than it deserves. And the least we expect is elementary respect. We will continue to offer hospitality and protection to those who really need it. But there are limits that have been crossed. And our tolerance will be zero towards those who do not respect the laws, order and especially the citizens of the country that hosts them,” Neophytou said.

Authorities in Nicosia last week said that this year alone, 17,000 people had entered their jurisdiction through irregular channels. There were 12,285 in the whole of 2021.

Kokkinotrimithia police station continues its investigation.

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