Government condemns violence at migrant centre

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Clashes between rival groups of migrants at the Pournara refugee reception centre on Monday night were unjustified, despite the facility being overcrowded, the Interior Ministry said.

In an announcement on Tuesday, the ministry said: “Despite the mounting problems due to the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing flows of migrants, authorities are working day and night to manage the new arrivals, mainly from Turkey”.

The ministry admitting that currently more than 1500 people are hosted at the centre.

“These numbers, in combination with the exit ban imposed by the decrees (lockdown) issued by the Health Ministry, create additional problems”.

The centre was built to accommodate up to 1,000 refugees.

The Interior Ministry said that the camp was split into two groups, Syrian and African refugees.

On Monday night, more than 600 migrants clashed, with 35 people being injured and 24 taken to hospital.

Fighting broke out, shortly after 11 pm after an internal barrier, separating groups of different nationalities, was breached and the two groups came face to face.

Police could not immediately say what the reason for the disruption was.

Cyprus police confirmed to the Financial Mirror that they are looking into footage from the reception centre, in order to find out why the two groups clashed.

According to a police representative, some of the migrants threw stones and were armed with iron bars.

Police officers intervened and managed to break up the melee after calling for reinforcements.

Condemning the clashes at Pournara the Cyprus Police Officers Union (SAK), urged the authorities to address the issue of understaffing at the facility.

The union called on authorities to act “before lives are lost”.

More refugees arrived on the island in an inflatable boat with 21 people on board coming from the Turkish coast.

Coastal police towed the vessel to the fishing shelter at Kato Pyrgos shortly before 2 am Tuesday.

Two of the 21 men found on board, are believed to be traffickers and were arrested while the other 19 were transferred to a reception facility.