Debate over crime and migration in the Republic of Cyprus was renewed this week following a video showing the moment a young man was killed in downtown Nicosia as well as statements by officials regarding foreigners on the island.
A video that shows the moment a young man was stabbed in downtown Nicosia was made public this week, after a 22-year-old Palestinian man was remanded in custody for eight days in the killing of a man from Pakistan. Another suspect, a male from Syria, is still wanted by police.
Ahmed Bin Talib aged 24, was assaulted by two male assailants outside a shop near Solomou Square, with camera footage showing one of them stabbing the Pakistani national in the chest.
“This is the knife I used. I can’t believe it, he really died?”
Law enforcement officials said drugs were involved in the incident, with reports saying police searched the residence of the suspect in custody and found a pocket knife and a small quantity of drugs, believed to have been stolen from the victim.
“This is [the knife] I used when I stabbed him. I can’t believe it, he really died?” the suspect reportedly told police during his arrest.
Minister defends tough stance on migration
Following the incident, Interior Minister Nikos Nouris went on state radio to defend the government’s tough stance on immigration, saying an altercation in western Nicosia a few weeks ago and this week’s murder confirmed their concern.
“Whether some people choose to believe it or not, it is a fact that gangs are forming and specific areas are turning into ghettos,” the minister said.
Nouris defended the government’s decision to build a detention facility for asylum applicants, saying the interior ministry’s migration department would receive support to accelerate the adjudication process and any deportations resulting from it.
The minister, who backed policies established by his predecessor last year, argued that authorities ought to know where asylum applicants are going to be, adding that an enclosed facility was necessary.
“These things are now taking place because we don’t have these facilities,” Nouris added.
Nouris accuses Turkey of sending econmic migrants
The minister also accused Turkey of being actively involved in attempts to alter the demographic composition of Cyprus by “sending these people” to the south, whom he described as economic migrants in many cases.
Nicosia Mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis also weighed in, saying “an increased influx of migrants was a Cyprus-wide problem” while adding that €100 a month for people granted asylum meant they were forced to find housing in ghettos.
Yiorkadjis said more needed to be done by authorities, calling for increased inspections by sanitation officials as well as social workers patrolling the streets in coordination with current neighbourhood policing plans.
Nicosia mayor wants more direct contact
“This can provide direct contact with people as well as allow us to advise them but also monitor the conditions in which they live,” the mayor said.
But social experts said recent statements about foreign nationals living in downtown Nicosia and branded as criminals, including cases of drug involvement, did not reflect accurately on the problem.
Despina Cochliou, a lecturer of Social Work at the University of Nicosia, pointed out that individuals may get involved in illicit drug activities or theft because they do not have other opportunities.
Cochliou, who spoke on AlphaNews Live this week, said the state was not sufficiently prepared to assist asylum applicants in assimilating into Cypriot society.
Police officers with ethnic background
Another guest on the show, Cypriot criminologist Andreas Kapardis, said experts were needed in key posts in order for the state to tackle a number of problems, including social approaches in addition to law enforcement.
But Kapardis also called on law enforcement authorities to employ individuals on the force who had an ethnic and linguistic background similar to the people in their own communities.
“I am a friend of the police, and I say that publicly. But at the same time, police should try to approach these communities more effectively,” he said.
Cochliou did not disagree with the idea but added that language barriers would need to be overcome, saying “there is no concrete policy for someone who comes here to learn Greek.”
The UNIC lecturer also pointed out that the state’s assimilation programmes depended largely on whether they would be funded by the European Union, adding that a more comprehensive approach was needed.