Eight tenants at Pournara migration facility were placed under arrest on Tuesday, following a violent brawl on camp grounds that erupted between two groups under circumstances still unclear.
Police said a total of eight individuals, described as asylum seekers or refugees, were arrested at Pournara by Tuesday evening, but no further details were provided.
Hours after a large-scale violent confrontation between groups of asylum seekers took place at the migrant detention centre, the interior ministry said police investigators were sifting through video footage from security cameras to identify possible instigators.
Police said over 600 individuals took part in the violent incident on Monday night, with several individuals holding steel rods, throwing stones, and breaching a fence that was erected earlier to keep different ethnic groups separate.
Motives unclear, government says "no excuse"
It was not clear what caused the initial altercation but a statement from the interior ministry said the camp was operating under a declaration of emergency rule, adding “over 1500 people are being hosted either in quarantine areas or the camp proper.”
Last year the Ombudswoman pointed out a number of concerns regarding capacity, health and hygiene, access to asylum services, as well as the right of residents to come and go freely
“These numbers along with a ban on outings being imposed by emergency health laws create additional problems,” the statement said.
But officials also said there could be “no excuse for violence between Syrian and African camp residents” that took place on Tuesday night, adding that video footage from security cameras was being evaluated in collaboration with police.
Last month the state’s Ombudswoman, Commissioner for Administration and Human Rights Maria Stylianou-Lottides, said she had seen improvements at the camp, located in rural Nicosia, while also pointing out that many problems were still not being addressed such as the right to move freely out of the camp.
In a previous visit last year, the Ombudswoman pointed out a number of concerns regarding capacity, health and hygiene, access to asylum services, as well as the right of residents to come and go freely.
Interior Minister Nikos Nouris, who has been criticized for taking a tough stance on migration, argued that individuals were still being transported in and out of the camp.
But it was later clarified camp residents were being transported to and from locations where they could seek medical treatment or attend a court hearing, but they were not allowed to exit. A number of protests took place at or outside the camp last year, calling on authorities to allow refugees to leave the facility.
A current decree issued by the Health Ministry, which includes a partial lockdown and other measures to stop further spread of the coronavirus, allows citizens to go outside for legitimate purposes.
The Ombudswoman suggested last month that some individuals, who were eligible to exit Pournara according to camp officials, be given permits immediately to leave the facility.
But camp officials told the Ombudswoman they were not in a position to allow people to leave the camp, saying a different rule banning exits and allowing only entries of aslyum seekers superseded other factors including legitimate exceptions.