The government on Thursday revealed that it will soon bring a bill that will allow the justice minister to issue a decree barring access to websites deemed to have racist or xenophobic content, while also promising other steps to keep an eye on such behaviours in the physical world.
Justice Minister Anna Koukkides-Procopiou told MPs that the purpose of the bill barring access to certain websites was to prevent any further “outbreaks of racism.”
Neighborhood watches – also known as ‘social policing – was another measure.
In addition, the minister revealed the rollout – within the next two months – of local policing councils. These will include people from the police, the welfare services, the mental healthcare services, the ministry of education, and municipal authorities.
Launched on a trial basis, the programme will be first applied in Limassol and Chlorakas – the two locations of anti-migrant sentiment that recently spilled over into violence.
“We must find a balance between the rule of law, and maintaining order and safety,” Procopiou stated.
“This should happen without there occurring other expressions and outbreaks that create problems to people with a migrant background and who live in certain areas.”
A day earlier, the justice minister had taken flak for not attending another parliamentary committee to which she had been summoned.
At Thursday’s session of the House interior committee, MPs insisted that the police prepare and hand over an incident report into both the Chlorakas and Limassol events.
Deputies also sought information on the profiles of the perpetrators and those arrested for engaging in violence and rioting.
Speaking to journalists later, committee chair Aristos Damianou (Akel) slammed both the present and previous administrations for the spike in the number of migrants living here but also for the growth in racist sentiment.
“Should the ancient Greek phrase ‘All non-Greeks are barbarians’ prevail, then we will be accomplices to barbarism,” the MP remarked.
“No one wants open borders, but at the same time the Republic – half of which is under occupation – must respect international law and human rights. The blame goes to the previous government for accepting the Dublin Regulation, which does not allow for the diffusion of people to western and northern Europe.”
Under the Dublin Regulation, an agreement among EU member states, a person arriving for example in Cyprus – whether by choice or unintentionally – must immediately apply for asylum even if they intend to move on to another country that is a signatory the regulation.
Commenting on the anti-migrant sentiment among a section of the population, Damianou said: “Those who think they can pursue a political career based on racism, bigotry, xenophobia, the only thing they achieve is to fuel fascism.”
The Akel MP went on to argue that migration issues are the sole ambit of the House interior committee and had been so for decades.
Although not spelling it out, he was effectively calling for the abolition of the House ad hoc committee on demographics – which currently happens to be chaired by the nationalist Elam party.