21 arrests after racist violence

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Police arrested 21 people in renewed violent incidents in Chlorakas, Paphos, as officers moved in to prevent clashes between Greek Cypriot hooded agitators and migrant residents.

The 21 arrests add to the four on Sunday, following a first round of violent attacks on migrants.

Police spokesperson Christos Andreou told state radio CyBC that Monday’s arrests involved eight Greek Cypriots, one Greek national, and 12 Syrians, all men.

Sixteen suspects were remanded in custody on Tuesday.

Andreou said: “Chlorakas now has 24/7 police presence, with strict orders from the police chief to maintain order and calm”.

Video footage depicted a second night of racist attacks against Syrians living in the village.

A group of Greek Cypriots were recorded chanting “get out, get out” during a demonstration, which escalated as it came face to face with a group of Syrian migrants.

Footage from Sunday and Monday night showed attacks on homes and shops owned by Syrian migrants.

Migrants were reportedly threatened and warned to leave the village.

Earlier Monday, some 500 Syrian residents held a peaceful sit-down demonstration to protest violent attacks against them.

The migrants’ demonstration on Monday began to wind down after Justice Minister Anna Procopiou, in the area for a meeting with local authorities, assured the Syrian community that the state would tackle the issue of attacks.

Andreou told CyBC: “Later in the day, a group of Greek Cypriots gathered initially, and a group of foreigners assembled to face them”.

He said the two groups comprised of around 250 members each.

“The police were ready for any incidents at the scene and managed to prevent members of the two groups from coming into contact with each other,” Andreou said.

He said officers used all means available, including anti-riot units, a water cannon, drones, and tear gas to disperse the groups.

He added that the groups later broke off into smaller bands, causing disturbance and setting bins on fire.

A police officer hit in the hand by a Molotov cocktail was taken to Paphos General Hospital.

The officer was reportedly found to have sustained a second-degree burn and was discharged after receiving first aid.

In his comments to CyBC, government spokesperson Constantinos Letymbiotis said the state would not tolerate disruption of public order.

“There are set procedures, and the rule of law, and a situation where any citizen takes the law into their own hands will not be tolerated,” Letymbiotis said.

Charalambos Pittokipitis, a former DIKO MP living in the area, said a Greek Cypriot woman who tried to protect a young Syrian child was “punched by one of our own”.

The former MP described the demonstration organised by Greek Cypriots as barbarism, dubbing it “completely pointless, as the government had last week decided to take action”.

Tensions in the village of Chlorakas have been running high for several years over what some locals believe is a disproportionately high number of asylum seekers in their small community.

The Interior Ministry, via a decree, declared the community off-limits to new arrivals in 2021, and last week, authorities said they would vacate a property complex where hundreds of migrants lived without electricity and running water.

Police have begun removing people from the condemned St. Nicolaos complex inhabited by more than 600 refugees.