The relocation operation of migrants housed in the troubled Ayios Nikolaos apartment complex in Chlorakas has been completed Paphos CID chief Michalis Nikolaou told the Cyprus Mail on Tuesday.
The operation saw 81 people have their details taken after 250 apartments were checked, raising questions as to the apparent discrepancy between that figure and reports of hundreds – up to 600 – living at the complex.
Asked about reports of tenants fleeing the complex overnight, Nikolaou confirmed that “some residents had fled” and restated that official data will be released shortly, although the figure was reported to be in the region of 150.
Before the operation started at dawn a number of migrants were seen to be leaving the buildings, Chlorakas locals told Philenews.
Police are said to be investigating these claims and are conducting searches of the surrounding areas to round-up tenants who have attempted to leave.
Eighty police officers from Paphos CID, the motorised crowd-control unit, and the immigration services, were at the site from 6am supporting the closure and relocation operation.
The operation was completed by 11am, Nikolaou said, outlining that of the 81 people recorded, 39 are men, 17 women and 25 minors.
Reports over the last few months, along with some staying at the complex who spoke to the Cyprus Mail, consistently referred to “hundreds” living at the site.
Commenting on whether he was satisfied with the operation of the police in Chlorakas, President Nikos Christodoulides said: “I am completely satisfied that the implementation of yesterday’s decisions has begun. I will make my assessment and publish it when this operation is completed. The decrees of the state, the government, should be implemented and the police, as I mentioned yesterday to the Chief of Police, are here precisely to implement these decisions. We have a big problem with migration, there will be no tolerance. Of course we will meet our international obligations, but beyond that, you will see several announcements in the coming days that aim to prevent, to change this image that exists – especially among traffickers – that Cyprus is an attractive destination.”
The infamous apartment complex has been beset with problems ranging from internal scuffles to incidents necessitating police involvement, to electricity theft, while residents of the community have repeatedly expressed their frustration with the situation.
Indeed, the police confirmed on Tuesday that one man resisted arrest at the scene which resulted in light injuries being sustained by two members of the team.
President Nikos Christodoulides intervened on Monday in a meeting at the presidential palace, attended by the attorney-general and several ministers, in an effort to tackle the longstanding problem.
The meeting decided on immediate execution and enforcement of a November 2020 decree to close down the complex and move residents to Kofinou, issued by the former minister of the interior and the Paphos district officer. The decree banned the use of the complex for health and safety reasons.
Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis announced on Monday that all migrants would be transferred to the Kofinou reception centre where their applications would be directly processed.
Legal residents will have a two-week timeframe to find an alternative place to live and vulnerable groups and families with minors will have support from the deputy welfare ministry. At the same time they will be given the right to voluntarily leave the Republic.
Those living on the island illegally are to be arrested and immediately deported.