33 arrested after violence at migrant camp

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Police arrested 33 people after violence erupted at Cyprus’ main migrant reception centre when fighting broke out between two ethnic groups, authorities said Tuesday.

Riot police were called to quell a disturbance on Monday evening where tear gas was used to restore order when about 50 mainly African nationals and Syrians clashed at the camp.

According to the Interior Ministry, orders have been given for any asylum seeker found responsible for the outbreak of violence to be deported.

Police said that eight migrants were slightly injured during the fighting and were taken to hospital to receive first aid and were released.

The cause of the trouble is still under investigation, but the situation is under control, said police.

The extent of damage to property has yet to be officially estimated.

It is the second serious eruption of violence at the Pournara camp in just over a year; a riot in October 2022 forced people to flee the camp outside the capital, Nicosia.

Tensions have risen on the island as the number of irregular migrants seeking asylum has spiked.

The government recently doubled the 1,000 capacity of Pournara after an influx of over 500 Syrian migrants from Lebanon since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7.

Cyprus argues it is a ‘frontline country’ on the Mediterranean migrant route, with asylum-seekers comprising an EU high of 6% of the island’s 915,000 population in the Republic – a record figure across the bloc.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are 26,995 asylum-seekers whose applications are pending.