‘The government has no legal or constitutional obligation to help them’
A week after the violent incidents that reaped destruction across Limassol’s migrant community in a racist-fuelled attack, those that saw their businesses smashed by thugs feel abandoned by the state, they say.
Despite the condemnation and statements of support to migrants in their plight, many of those who saw their shop windows broken and had Molotov cocktails thrown inside their premises, have lost their sole source of income.
Damages run into thousands of euros, a number that many of the foreign shop owners cannot even fathom.
And while Limassol municipality has stepped in to undertake the expenses of the Vietnamese store which was torn apart, the rest of the Middle Eastern owned businesses feel they have been hung out to dry.
“The government has no legal or constitutional obligation to help them,” deputy government spokeswoman Doxa Komodromou told the Cyprus Mail.
The statement came after police, an arm of the same government, conceded they had failed in their obligation to protect those who were beaten and attacked, and had stood idly by. This failure was admitted by the police chief himself, who said “we could have intervened earlier.”
Justifying the government’s hands-off stance, Komodromou asked “what happens if shops get smashed again next week or the week after? Will the government have to keep paying?
“President (Nicos Christodoulides) has made statements and said if anyone is found guilty for damages, they will be forced to pay the amount.”
However, if and when those responsible are arrested, the court case could drag on for months in a best-case scenario. The trial could very well take over a year though and the question of how the people whose livelihoods were destroyed will survive remains unanswered.
So far, a total of 48 people were charged for violence in both Chlorakas and Limassol.
A friend of the Food Syria store owner in Limassol, which was destroyed beyond immediate repair told the Cyprus Mail the owner had been saving up for years to open up the business. “I saw him on that night. He was on the floor crying.”
All his savings down the drain, the owners have now made a makeshift cover over the broken glass and are attempting to continue to sell food.
“He cannot pay for this damage. Some authorities came the next day and took pictures but to tell you the truth, he doesn’t believe the government will do even one per cent to help him.”
The Cyprus Mail counted seven business which were destroyed to varying degrees as a result of last Friday’s aftermath. Three barbershops, two fast food restaurants, one fruit and vegetable market and one Asian store.
Apart from the latter, all businesses were Middle Eastern owned, predominantly Syrian.
The owner of an Egyptian shop shared all that happened and made a statement to Limassol’s CID. “I haven’t heard anything from anyone,” he said.
Another Syrian businessman, who runs a barber shop said he told the municipality the extent of the damage but there has been radio silence since then.
Many other shops that sustained lesser damage such as “only” a cracked window, have kept going.
Limassol’s mayor Nicos Nicolaides said the municipality stepped in to cover the repair work for Ms. Dao, the owner of the Vietnamese store on Limassol’s beachfront. A video captured on the night of the violence showed her sobbing on the pavement, managing only to choke out the fact that she had four children.
The government’s welfare office has also stepped in to help her with financial and psychological support for her children.
Nonetheless, the interjection raised the question: what about the others?
Christodoulides has given orders to the interior ministry to ensure all shops are assessed for the degree of their damage.
The city’s mayor said the decision to support the particular store was borne out of sympathy after her plight was caught on video.
“This is a symbolic move to say we support migrants.” Nicolaides added Limassol is a multicultural city where one in five residents in of non-Cypriot origin.
“We believe the state should step in to help the other stores. We don’t have the financial capacity to do so.”
To the question of how these individuals are supposed to get by without income, the mayor said the municipality would be by their side through the foodbanks and any psychological support available.
The deputy welfare ministry said it helped Dao because of the four children she said she had, clarifying that their role is to help vulnerable people, meaning those with children or an elderly person. The deputy ministry said support – also including psychological – has been offered to Chlorakas victims too and urged anyone with information about vulnerable groups to come forward.