Police are hunting for a 15-year-old wanted for attempted murder after fleeing the scene of violence at the Pournara migrant reception centre.
Some 35 migrants suffered minor injuries following a fight between rival groups of underaged migrants at the migrant camp Wednesday on the outskirts of the capital, Nicosia, said Interior Minister Nicos Nouris.
Talking to state radio CyBC, Nouris said that the altercation between Nigerian and Congolese youths housed at the camp broke out at the facility’s basketball court over a “totally insignificant reason”.
Nouris said the situation spiralled out of control, with migrants throwing stones and various other objects at each other.
Police forces were called to the spot to enforce order. Nouris said that a 15-year-old had injured another migrant (17) in the eye with a knife.
Wednesday’s incident was preceded the previous evening by more violence, during which Nouris said one youth threatened a police officer with a knife.
Authorities say rising migrant arrivals push the island’s capacity to host them to its limits.
Earlier in February, Nouris and Beate Gminder, who heads the European Commission’s Migration Management, Task Force, signed an agreement on the return of migrants by streamlining procedures for asylum rejection as arrivals increase.
Gminder said Brussels acknowledges that Cyprus is under enormous pressure on asylum seekers, and the EU will support Nicosia in dealing with this challenge.
Nouris had said that Cyprus looked forward to more effective support for managing the situation and pointed out that Turkey is responsible for a flow of illegal immigrants through the Green Line.
Cyprus saw 1,335 new asylum applications in January — more the double the number from the same month two years ago.
Some 13,235 new asylum applications were filed last year, with authorities managing to examine 16,000, of which nearly 13,000 were rejected.
He said 85% of those who applied for asylum had entered Cyprus from the breakaway north and crossed a United Nations-controlled buffer zone to file their claim.
The minister said the European Union acknowledges that Cyprus needs to take measures to stem migrant arrivals across the buffer zone.
Three top EU officials, including Margaritis Schinas, the vice-president of the EU’s executive arm, will be visiting the island in the next few weeks to inspect conditions along the buffer zone.