Riot police quell violence at asylum camp

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Cypriot riot police used tear gas to quell violence at a migrant reception centre on Friday after clashes between different ethnic groups caused a fire to break out, authorities said.

Police said one person was injured and needed hospital treatment during the disturbance at the Pournara camp outside the capital Nicosia.

Fire services were sent to contain a fire inside the camp where billowing smoke could be seen; this prompted scores of people inside to leave holding their belongings.

A police press officer told AFP that “tensions have calmed” several hours after the violence before lunchtime Friday – a national holiday.

Police have yet to confirm if any arrests were made or the extent of damage inside a camp that has seen similar violent clashes in the past.

According to the police, the incident took place between two groups of different nationalities who started throwing rocks and other objects at each other while a fire broke out during the fights.

Website Philenews said the clashes were between groups of Nigerian and Congolese asylum seekers.

Applicants from the Congo and Nigeria are the two largest nationalities seeking asylum in Cyprus, followed by Syria.

Cyprus chief of police Stelios Papatheodorou attributed overcrowding at the reception centre to the violence and the melting pot of ethnic groups in close proximity.

He said due to previous violence at the camp – holding more than double its 800 capacity –, police had stepped-up security measures.

“Police are doing everything possible to protect the area and those residing in the camp,” said Papatheodorou.

A strong police presence remains in the area to prevent any reoccurrence of the fighting.

European Union member Cyprus says it is on the frontline of the bloc’s irregular migration flows with the highest number of asylum applicants per population.

The government claims asylum-seekers comprise an EU high of 5% of the island’s 915,000 people in the Republic.

This year, 4,019 migrants who had their asylum applications rejected have either been deported or voluntarily repatriated.

Until July, 13,818 have applied for asylum from 13,325 in the whole of 2021.

More than 1500 asylum applications are received every month.