Cyprus Mail

‘Government will use all means to ensure safety in Chlorakas’ (Update 5)

chlorakas fire

By Andria Kades and Iole Damaskinos

Every means available to the government will be used to ensure safety in Chlorakas after two days of violent clashes, President Nikos Christodoulides decided on Tuesday, after an emergency meeting with the police chief, justice minister and head of the secret service.

Speaking after the meeting, director of the president’s press office Victoras Papadopoulos issued a plea for no more issues at the scene.

He added Christodoulides had been briefed on the matter and “there is a plan in place. Police is and will be at the scene, we hope nothing else happens.”

The violence, seen for the second night running on Monday night, is believed to have been instigated by far-right party Elam. Of 21 people arrested – both Greek Cypriot and Syrian – 16 were remanded into police custody for eight days on Tuesday.

The president has given orders that all necessary measures to ensure peace in the area are taken.

“Since the day the government took over, it has been tackling immigration and illegal migration in every way possible. Arrivals have been reduced by half, returns have increased and applications are being processed twice as fast,” Papadopoulos said.

He added that relocation of migrants from an apartment complex in Chlorakas is set to finish by the end of the week.

Police chief Stelios Papatheodorou said police presence in the area would continue to prevent any other incidents and an operation plan is in place to avoid a third night of violent incidents.

Police spokesman Christos Andreou said police presence in Chlorakas has now been stepped up to round the clock, with strict orders from the police chief to maintain order and calm.

Video footage from Monday night showed Greek Cypriots chanting “get out, get out” marking the second night in a row of racist attacks against foreign nationals living in Chlorakas.

Earlier on Monday, a group of some 500 Syrian residents held a peaceful demonstration, as a reaction to the previous night’s violent attacks against them. Shop windows were smashed and migrants beaten and threatened.

Justice Minister Anna Procopiou held a meeting in Paphos with the police chief the same evening and personally assured the Syrian community that the state would tackle the problem. This led to the demonstration to unwind, but then sparked the Greek Cypriots to band together and begin their chanting.

The incident became increasingly tense as a group of Syrians then began arguing back, with police having to intervene.

“A group of Greek Cypriots gathered initially and following this a group of foreigners assembled to face them,” Andreou told CyBC.

A police statement to the Cyprus News Agency said the two ethnic groups comprised of around 250 members each. The groups later broke off into smaller bands and began committing antisocial acts such as setting bins on fire.

“The police, who were at the ready for any incidents mobilised at the scene and managed to prevent members of the two groups from coming into contact with each other and confrontations,” Andreou said.

The spokesman noted one incident of injury to a police officer who was hit in the hand by a Molotov cocktail and taken to the Paphos general hospital, where he was treated for a second-degree burn and was discharged.

Police were well-prepared and effective, Andreou said, adding they used all means available, including anti-riot units, the force’s water cannon vehicle, drones and tear gas to locate and disperse the groups.

“A special interrogation team has been set up to expedite the arrests process and a large volume of CCTV and other footage is being examined,” the police spokesman said.

Also speaking to CyBC, government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said the state would not tolerate a disruption of public order and justice.

The inside of a Syrian restaurant attacked during the violence

“There are set procedures and the rule of law and a situation where any citizen takes the law into his own hands will not be tolerated,” Letymbiotis said.

Asked to what degree there are indications that the group of xenophobic agitators were organised ‘vigilantes’, Letymbiotis said the matter was being seriously investigated by police and authorities and all perpetrators would be brought to justice.

Chlorakas community leader Nicolas Liasides said he had been assured by both the justice minister and police chief that there would be increased police presence to avoid any more violence.

Heavy police forces, comprised of over half the island’s police force, according to the CyBC, closed off streets in the Chlorakas and chased down hooded agitators carrying bats, for two hours through fields and other areas, until midnight on Monday.

Police confirmed initial incidents of fires set to bins and the fence of a nursing home.

Meanwhile in Emba, a pick-up truck owned by a 72-year-old Greek Cypriot, which was being used by the 47-year-old unofficial leader of the Syrian community, was also found aflame.

Suspicions are that the act was arson and done in retaliation for the leader of the Syrian community allegedly having said that he and his compatriots, would “turn Paphos upside down”.

The incident followed another anti-immigrant protest on Sunday night that turned extremely violent after the march – which gathered over 1,000 people according to the mukhtar – splintered into smaller groups that began attacking foreign nationals living in Chlorakas.

Businesses owned by migrants saw their shop fronts smashed and vehicles overturned.

One Cypriot resident charged that a group of thugs broke into a home with seven children and their mother and began breaking things inside the house.

Another elderly Cypriot man said they were warned that Elam members may “punish” locals who chose not to participate in the protest.

He said it was clear they knew exactly which houses to target, as a large group came knocking down the street and eventually a group broke into his store room and stole meat skewers and a shovel.

Charalambos Pittokipitis, a former Diko MP from the area said a Greek Cypriot woman who tried to protect a young child from Syria ended up “getting punched by one of our own”.

He described the protest as an act of barbarism, adding that it was “completely pointless” as the government had only last week decided that Chlorakas migrants from an apartment complex would be moved to Kofinou, with the transfer already wrapped.

Refugee NGO Kisa accused Chlorakas mukhtar Liasides of taking part in the riots and allegedly attacking a Syrian man, who tried to protect his eight-year-old daughter, and was consequently hit by the mukhtar.

Liasides did not directly deny the charge but accused Kisa of targeting him, adding he was reserving all his legal rights.

Christodoulides condemned the violence, as did most political parties – except Elam.


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