Footage of clashes between unaccompanied minors at a Paphos accommodation centre prompted the city’s mayor to on Tuesday warn that the state is responsible “should the worst happen”.
Speaking to the media, Phedonas Phedonos claimed that due to the state’s absence the situation could quickly unravel and explode out of control.
“I am very fearful – and I’m stating this publicly – that unless the state acts and takes the necessary measures to place these people in suitable accommodation, then we will witness uncontrollable incidents,” he told Sigma.
He explained that residents are furious and there is a risk of them taking the law into their own hands, emphasising that he has spoken with them and told them to avoid any confrontation with the unaccompanied minors.
Phedonos made a series of serious allegations, including that a “significant amount of those there are not underage minors”, repeating claims of prostitution occurring, and that the state has abandoned them there.
“A significant amount of those staying there are not underage: they are 19, 20 or even 21 but declare being underage because then they are treated very differently to an adult,” he said.
The district’s police press office was not immediately available for comment.
Phedonos further claimed that traffickers inform them to throw away their documents and declare that they are underage.
The mayor added that “supposedly some government workers were to go there and look after them, provide some lessons and so on but there is no state presence there now”.
He said that in a recent conversation with the relevant deputy minister he told her that things are out of control and “issued an SOS”.
The accommodation centre in Paphos has gained notoriety as footage regularly surfaces showing mass brawls taking place. Notably, in 2022 anti-riot police had to intervene after five minors were slightly injured during a fight there.
“There are now some police officers out there but when I went and spoke to them they told me that their orders are clear: we’re here to prevent any residents of the area who try and enter the premises.
“As for when the minors enter or leave or whatever their behaviour is there, the officers’ orders are clear not to get involved with them,” the mayor said.
The mayor said that he has been in repeated contact with the relevant authorities but is continuously told that “something is happening”, although it never has.
“The tourist season is coming up, the residents are furious and I’m fearful that there may be incidents,” he said.
Phedonos warned that in such cases where the state is absent and allowing such a situation to develop then it bears responsibility should the worst happen.
“Everyone knows, it’s just a hot potato that they’re throwing around between them or they just find a place and leave it there – but at some point someone will pick it up and get burnt,” he concluded.