Local residents in a village in Paphos are up in arms over hearsay that Syrian inhabitants in the community want to have a mosque in the small rural town, with the debate on migration getting more intense and political.
According to Sigmalive, residents of Drousha have been voicing concerns over the number of Syrian refugees living in the community, a village tucked away in the mountainous regions of Paphos district.
Last week Drousha council head Stelios Koupparis said the immigration issue was a big problem for the community, “so big, that some parents registered their kids in other schools.”
Deputy council head Pambos Palate, who also spoke on camera, told Sigmalive he had heard that Syrians in his community wanted to have a mosque.
“I heard they are asking to build a mosque. How is it possible for Drousha, where there was not even a single Turk during 400 years of Ottoman rule, to build a mosque here today?” Palate asked.
'I heard they are asking to build a mosque. How is it possible for Drousha, where there was not even a single Turk during 400 years of Ottoman rule, to build a mosque here today?'
A letter from a local women’s group sent to DYSI ruling party leader Averof Neophytou also pointed to “serious problems and fear amongst residents,” while calling for some Syrian families to be relocated to other villages and all refugee applications to be reexamined.
“There is fear amongst Droushates who are literally afraid to walk outside in their own village,” the letter said according to Sigmalive.
Neophytou, who recently visited the community, said people were not racists but Europeans who respect human rights and ought to embrace a small child who emigrates to escape war.
“But what worries me, and this is why I stand with the administration, is that we must protect our land,” Neophytou said.
The DYSI leader went on to call for a “safety net to protect against those who want to become an economic burden in our country, with the risk of crime rates going up, with a problem of national security, but also the ever so visible danger of changing the demographic character of our country.”
The immigration debate has become more intense recently in the Republic of Cyprus, after a House census committee headed by nationalist party ELAM raised a number of questions regarding demographics.
But critics have said certain numbers on migration were not clear or accurate, including percentages of non-native speakers that lumped together different categories of people with a “migrant background” such as refugees, asylum seekers, European citizens, and naturalized immigrants.
Officials also criticized the government of using numbers and terminology that targeted specific categories of people, including young children.
Alternative spellings for the Cypriot village, known among locals for its famous gravity road optical illusion, include Drouseia in Greek, while a Syrian village south of Damascus is also called Drousha, known for violent clashes some 240 miles east of its namesake.
Another debate in Drousha and nearby areas has also been brewing over development plans in the broader Akamas region, with Neophytou telling locals he was in favor of sustainable development with respect to the environment.