Recent incidents of mostly young Cypriot men in Chlorakas taking the law into their own hands, apparently against members of the Syrian community, have led the Police to intervene, warning individuals that their behavior is unlawful and racist.
According to Paphos police spokesman, Michalis Ioannou, the two hot spots where the groups are operating are in Yeroskippou and, to a far worse extent, Chlorakas.
Both areas have seen an increase in crime, particularly burglaries and theft, posing a ‘big problem’ Police say.
Several locals, mostly young Cypriot men, have mobilized into groups to ensure that ‘law and order’ were established in Chlorakas, Ioannou said.
The groups stopped both cars and pedestrians in the area, saying that they weren’t up to anything illegal. Their targets are mostly Syrians.
“I have to stress that only the police are permitted to undertake such actions, and these groups have no right to patrol or try to prevent crime; this is down to the police,” Ioannou told the Cyprus Mail on Wednesday.
The murder of a Syrian man in Chlorakas in Paphos on April 10 is the most violent in many incidents that are spreading disquiet among residents and have forced the community leader to appeal for state help.
A large number of recent Syrian arrivals have been housed in overcrowded tourist accommodation in the area.
According to Ioannou, a group of around ten or so Syrian men is the leading cause for concern, and he stressed that locals must understand that this only involves a tiny minority, as is the case generally with all residents of all nationalities.
“There are many Syrian families in the area, and the vast majority of Syrian residents are good citizens,” he said.
Akel has condemned what it described as the groups’ reprehensible behavior of intimidating refugees and immigrants in the community.
“Such behaviors permeate racism and xenophobia.
They are cultivating the ground for extreme nationalist elements to take over the situation,” Akel’s district committee said.
“These actions are reprehensible and therefore, should be immediately investigated by the coordinating authorities who are also responsible for maintaining security and order in our country.”
Ioannou said that if anyone suspects or witnesses an incident or crime, they must immediately contact the Police, take the necessary actions, and not attempt to take the law into their own hands.
“Police from the Paphos division and headquarters have had to explain legislation many times to local Cypriots, especially in Chlorakas. There have been problems with a handful of members of the Syrian community recently, but we are dealing with it,” he said.
Akel noted that there had been an increase in the number of delinquency problems by foreigners in Chlorakas and Yeroskippou, and the authorities should act immediately and effectively to deal with them.
“The ghettoization of foreigners is created due to the non-implementation of integration programs into society,” they said.
Ioannou added that officers had also warned the self-styled security groups that posting xenophobic or racist comments on Facebook and other social media is racist and against the law.
“We have many patrols in Chlorakas, and the Police are doing everything to prevent any problems between the two communities. At present, the situation is quiet and calm,” he said.