Police launch operation to remove asylum seekers from ‘ghetto’

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Cypriot authorities Tuesday started removing around 600 asylum seekers living in a disused residency complex in Chlorakas, Paphos, after local protests and claims of electricity theft.

“Personnel are in the area and have blocked off the building complex and begun to register all the foreigners who are settled in the specific complex in Chlorakas,” Paphos police spokesman Michalis Nicolaou told reporters.

He said the details of each person will be registered and transferred to a migrant reception centre for processing, where it will be decided whether they have a right to stay in the country.

Police are carrying out an eviction order issued in November 2020 but not implemented.

State broadcaster CyBC said that around 150 migrants had left the complex before the police operation began on Monday at 0600 local time.

An emergency cabinet meeting was convened Monday to resolve the issue after tensions flared again.

The government said that those found to be residing on the island illegally will be deported, while legal residents will be given two weeks to find alternative accommodation.

According to the 2020 decree, the Ayios Nikolaos complex should have been closed for health and safety reasons.

There has been friction between local residents and the migrants in the small community of Chlorakas, with protests demanding they be removed from the apartment complex.

The issue resurfaced after the Electricity Authority of Cyprus cut power to the complex and placed the substation in the area under guard.

Around 100 migrants began protesting last week and demanding to be housed elsewhere.

The protest turned sour when the police anti-riot unit intervened, using tear gas against the demonstrators – resulting in the government taking action.

European Union member Cyprus argues it is a ‘frontline country’ on the Mediterranean migrant route, with asylum-seekers comprising an EU high of 5% of the island’s 915,000 population in the Republic – a record figure across the bloc.