After the brawl at the Pournara migrant centre, which followed a football match between Nigerians and Syrians on Monday night, 33 men were arrested. Two of the men involved in brawl had to be taken to hospital and were released after receiving treatment for their injuries.
On Wednesday the spokesperson of the interior ministry said that 28 remand and deportation orders were issued for causing a public disturbance. The 28 men, mostly Nigerians were taken to the Menoyia holding and deportation centre, awaiting their deportation in the next few days. The Syrians involved in the brawl will appear in court and face charges, said the spokesperson. Syrians cannot be sent back to their country because it is considered a war zone.
The action against the immigrants was taken after the Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou ordered immediate action while he was on a visit to Spain. He said that migrants who failed to respect the hospitality of Cyprus would be deported and gave orders for the asylum applications of those involved in the brawl to be examined. He gave instructions for officers from the migration department to look at the applications, so the troublemakers could be deported.
He was backed by the government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis declaring that “the government shows zero tolerance to violence from wherever it stems.” When an asylum seeker broke the law and caused trouble, all legal procedures must be followed he added, thus defending the actions of the interior minister, who inevitably was criticised by the migrant support group Kisa.
Kisa said that due process would not be followed, claiming that the asylum applications would be summarily examined and deportation orders issued “regardless of whether an applicant had a well-founded fear of persecution”.
Ioannou had left himself open to such criticism because he chose to go public about the matter. His popularity will most probably be boosted by taking decisive action, but at the same time he was offering ammunition to Kisa to claim the government was not following a fair process and report it to European agencies, which in turn could seek an explanation from the interior ministry.
It would have been much wiser of Ioannou not to have made any public statement about the matter and given his instructions privately. The deportations would have gone ahead, without any fuss and public criticism. Perhaps Ioannou and the government wanted to put the matter in the public domain because they would win brownie points, but this is a rather short-sighted approach as it could create problems for Cyprus in the future.
The best policy when making deportation decisions is to keep them out of the public domain as the government has no obligation to inform anyone other than the individuals directly affected by these decisions.