The mayor of a small town in Cyprus inundated with Syrian refugees has claimed the area has become a “ghetto” and called on them to leave and be dispersed elsewhere.
Nicholas Liasides, the mayor of Chloraka, a village with a population of just 4,420, has seen the number of asylum seekers in the area increase by more than 100 percent in just three years, and now totals over 1,700.
The influx is unsustainable, insists Liasides, who claims the village now has “a demographic problem.”
“To solve it, these refugees must be distributed across the island,” he pleaded.
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The majority of asylum seekers present in Cyprus have arrived via the northern annexed part of the island, which has been under Turkish governance since 1974.
Liasides claimed a major pull factor for asylum seekers to Chloraka is the Saint Nicolas residential complex on the outskirts of town, which the owner has transformed from a hotel for tourists to apartments for refugees with affordable rents. It is currently occupied by nearly 700 refugees.
“It’s a ghetto and we want to break it up,” Nicholas Liasides told AFP.
Local authorities were reportedly ordered to cut off the water supply to the 250 apartments comprising the complex after it was declared unfit for habitation, a move the owner of the site described as “shameful.”
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An interior ministry decree was issued in December of last year, prohibiting Chlorakas residents from housing any new refugees. The owner of Saint Nicolas, Nefofyto Paranetis, is reportedly under criminal investigation for allegedly violating the terms of this decree, something he believes is “just an excuse” to chastise him for accommodating refugees.
A Paphos police spokesperson told local news outlets in January that authorities had been patrolling the village every evening after fights had broken out between refugees, prompting local residents to organize protests against the asylum seekers remaining in the area.
“People here are hospitable towards the refugees, but now there are many who are illegal and creating problems here,” a local cafe owner told media.
“Most of the people in the village are scared to go near the place because there are too many refugees,” they added.
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Nicos Nouris, Cyprus’ interior minister, commented on the general issue of overcrowding in some areas of the island on Wednesday, and called for the repatriation of asylum seekers who had already had their applications rejected.
He told state broadcaster CyBC that 35 migrants had suffered minor wounds following a skirmish between rival gangs that had formed in a processing center on the outskirts of the capital, Nicosia.
He urged the European Union to help local authorities man the buffer zone between the Cypriot side of the island, and the Turkish third in the north, where it is believed more than 85 percent of the asylum seekers on Cypriot territory arrived from.