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Anti-migrant rally planned for Wednesday cancelled (updated)

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File photo: the protest in Limassol

An anti-migrant protest set to take place outside the presidential palace on Wednesday was cancelled on Tuesday with organisers saying an “out of control” situation would have sent the wrong message.

“We believe that an out-of-control situation on Wednesday would turn us into scapegoats of the failed and incompetent policies of governments over the years, including the current one. We understand that they want to burden us with responsibilities that belong to them,” the group called Mass Deportations Now said.

It said the cancellation of the protest is not weakness, just real, responsible “patriotism”.

Recently a similar protest organised in Limassol disintegrated into rioting, which led to attacks on migrants, tourists and migrant-run businesses in the city-centre.

The Wednesday protest had been slated to start at 7:30pm, with far-right football fan clubs calling on their members to attend.

Mass Deportations Now said they had announced an apolitical protest about the migration issue in an attempt to call attention to it but “due to some unforeseen incidents” at the protests on Friday, fuel was given to “far-left individuals and Akel” to cover up their “responsibility” in the problem of migration to Cyprus.

According to the group, the left and Akel are using this as a tactic to gather support ahead of EU parliamentary elections.

The group, echoing position made by far-right party Elam, called for mass deportations, faster examinations of asylum applications, more staff at the civil registry and migration department, and tougher treatment of suspected traffickers bringing migrants on boats.

Despite the cancellation, some migrant and refugee support NGOs repeated a call for people to vigilant on Wednesday night as there could be “spontaneous attacks.”

The Cyprus Refugee Council said that if anyone is in trouble to call the police helpline at 112 and give their exact location for help.

While the protest was due to be held outside the presidential palace, concerns were raised that small groups could splinter off and seek out migrant communities in the centre of old Nicosia.

Previously, the organisers of the demonstration called for a “peaceful protest” this time, but in an incendiary social media post, described immigration as “the third invasion of our island, with the consent of all the last Cypriot governments.

“The danger that we may also lose the other half of our homeland is now more than visible and the survival of Cypriot Hellenism in the place of its ancestors is more than in doubt,” they said.

“The problem is not only in Chlorakas, it extends to Ledra street, to Kokkinotrimithia, and at some point it will corrode even the last village in Cyprus.”

The demonstration had been the main subject of conversation on Tuesday near Oxi roundabout in Nicosia’s old city, where there is a concentration of migrants living and running businesses.

“We’re going to watch the situation and prepare to close, maybe in the afternoon,” said the owner of an Asian supermarket. “We’re going to stay alert.”

The Arab owner of a barber shop said he too would be on alert.

A plain clothes, off duty police officer said he had told business owners to keep ahead of events and be prepared, but he added that he was hopeful the protest would be banned from going ahead.

Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar also reacted to recent incidents in Limassol. “The moment the Turkish army leaves the island, the targets of racist attacks will be Turkish Cypriots,” he said.

Tatar added that the current attacks on migrants in Cyprus are related to the burning of the Qur’an in other EU countries.

Commenting on the violence in Limassol, he said that poor workers who had work permits were targeted in the attacks and claimed that President Nikos Christodoulides “admitted that they were helpless on the matter of racist attacks.”

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