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18 May, 2024
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Police use tear gas at migrant camp

Officers use tear gas after frustrated asylum seekers throw rocks and breach camp fence


Police officers responded with tear gas at a group of migrants at the Pournara camp in rural Nicosia, as the debate over detaining asylum seekers continues on Cyprus.

(Click here for an update to the story)

According to local media, a group of asylum seekers at the migration facility in Kokkinotrimithia, Nicosia district, attempted to breach an outer fence at the camp, which has been in lockdown due to an infestation according to the government.

Police declined to comment on the incident but told Knews there had been no arrests following the demonstration.

Local media said law enforcement agents were called to Pournara where some camp residents were seen trying to cut holes through a fence or attempting to tear it down. A video posted hours later showed a group behind the fence chanting "freedom, freedom."

As officers were arriving at the scene, some residents reportedly threw rocks at the agents, with police responding with tear gas. A number of police officers sustained minor injuries according to local media.

A number of demonstrations have taken place at Pournara in recent months, with migrants and asylum seekers protesting against poor living conditions and their incarceration.

A number of demonstrations have taken place at Pournara in recent months, with migrants and asylum seekers protesting against poor living conditions as well as their incarceration

Asylum seekers who either have pending applications or are in the process of filing their cases with the state have been staying at the emergency migrant camp for weeks and months after the government decided to relocate them in a confined space.

But Interior Minister Nikos Nouris, who has been criticised for taking a tough stance on migration, has said there was no “detention” of asylum seekers, arguing instead they were being hosted in a facility where authorities could reach them if their applications were rejected.

Back in April, Ombudswoman Maria Stylianou-Lottides warned the government that asylum seekers should not under any circumstances be barred from exiting the campground, arguing that an initial decree for restrictions on movement amid the pandemic was still protecting the rights of individuals to request permission to go outside for humanitarian or medical reasons.

But as the restrictions were being eased across the Republic, the government declared Pournara as a “local infected area” citing public health laws due to a scabies infestation.

Human rights groups and attorneys have challenged the government to provide more information about the current lockdown, while also accusing state authorities for creating conditions of overcrowding through which scabies could be spread.

Authorities were criticized recently for carrying out policies under which asylum applicants were being picked up from their places of residence or other locations and transferred to the migrant camp, which was originally designed to host asylum seekers for a maximum of 72 hours for initial checks and processing.

Cyprus  |  migration  |  Pournara  |  Kokkinotrimithia  |  asylum  |  refugee  |  migrant  |  police  |  tear gas  |  Nouris  |  scabies  |  detention

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