By Paris Demetriades
A few hours before expensive Lamborghinis and Ferraris, driven by wealthy "foreigners," start their ostentatious daily progress on the coastal road of Limassol, poor "foreigners" sleep on the sand, as long as it is still night, to become news in the morning from a well-known television station that they are "obstructing the work of local boat owners." I intentionally put "foreigners" in quotes, as the word "foreigner" in our country, as it has informally established, carries a derogatory tone, applicable only if you are poor and non-Cypriot. As a "foreigner," you are entitled to have money.
Back at the television station, the images of intoxicated and homeless foreigners sleeping on the sand and benches are evaluated by the news team as an aesthetic problem. They spoil the image. "Enough is enough. The situation with the drunken foreigners really cannot go on," emphatically declares the local fisherman in front of the camera - with a huge beer belly in close-up.
The fact that the number of homeless people on this once prosperous Mediterranean island is increasing and multiplying is not perceived as news, nor is it considered important as a story for reporting. What becomes news and reporting is the disturbance and discomfort caused by intoxicated foreigners with their presence among the local fishermen and boat owners. Simply by being there, they are a nuisance. With the audacity of being homeless and sleeping on the beach, they step on our toes. This message emerges indirectly from the report. How will people tow their boats in peace?
Five days later, an organized and autonomous movement of concerned Cypriot citizens, which four or five years ago was the only movement rightly protesting against the housing problem - which was just starting to show its teeth back then - descends on the bustling pier of the city for a protest march against undocumented immigrants. "Kick the undocumented immigrants out of Cyprus," reads their banner with the familiar misanthropic absolutism. Meanwhile, these "undocumented immigrants" who manage to stay in this town sleep, if not on the beach, on a makeshift arrangement of floors, in apartments rented for a thousand or two thousand euros. The unregistered, cheap labor force in catering, entertainment, and other sectors is necessary and they have to "settle" somewhere. Until, of course, the homeowner of a €1,000 studio learns that more people are sleeping there than agreed upon, and in anger, decides to evict them.
The fact that a callous and mafia-like state has taken care, like a political cormorant, to swim in the black money for ages, as well as the fact that the same short-sighted state has rightly ensured the attraction of major investments, but without compensatory measures and especially without provisions for side effects, does not seem to concern our society greatly. But how "side" are these losses in the end and what percentage of the population do they affect? Are they side effects? Is the traditionally local population, which is forced to leave the city center and beyond through summary procedures, not an issue?
Teenagers and twenty-year-olds, meanwhile, are found to be the majority participating in the racist march at the pier, just as teenagers and twenty-year-olds are also found to be the troublemakers of the Turkish Mahalla and other working-class neighborhoods who, as a hobby at night, if they're not fighting among themselves, beat up delivery workers from India and Bangladesh.
National and local authorities are stirring up trouble about other matters.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]