Nigerian migrants to be deported from Cyprus for fighting with Syrian migrants

Over 30 migrants were arrested at a migrant reception center in Cyprus (south) on Monday night after a fight that left two people injured broke out between African and Syrian migrants as the government plan to deport those involved in the fight.

The fight involving groups of Nigerian and Syrian migrants broke out at the Pournara migrant reception center in Kokkinotrimithia, on Monday after one group made a racist comment to the other following a football match.

The two groups started throwing rocks at each other.

Police rushed to the scene, and broke up the fighting by using tear gas, due to the seriousness of the situation.

Two people were injured in the fighting police said, and they were taken to Nicosia general for treatment and released.

Police on Tuesday said that 33 people, mostly Nigerians had been arrested for the fighting, while reports from media in the area said that more people had been arrested. 26 were Nigerian nationals and seven were Syrian nationals.

Cyprus Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou who was informed about the situation instructed that all those involved be arrested and deported. “We are strict with whoever disrespects the hospitality given by the Republic of Cyprus,” the minister said.

He instructed that the applications of the Nigerians be examined immediately, so that they can be deported “even if they are allowed asylum, since they were involved in the fighting”.

The Nigerian nationals face deportation, with warrants for detention and deportation against them allegedly already issued. The Syrian nationals, on the other hand, are expected to be taken to court, facing charges related to the clashes.

The Minister also gave instruction that more asylum application agents be sent to Pournara to examine the applications of the people involved in the fighting.

Government spokesman Konstantinos Letymbiotis said the deportation process for the migrants has begun.

“I will reiterate one more time that the government has zero tolerance towards violence from wherever it stems, and our focus is on the successful management of the migration issue,” he said.

Asked if an eligible asylum seeker can be deported, he replied that even if the individual is an asylum seeker, if he breaks the law and causes trouble, then all legal procedures must be followed and now the orders of the interior minister are for their application to be examined immediately and if involved in the incidents, to be deported.

If some cannot be sent to their countries because they are not considered safe, “we will act in accordance with our international obligations”, Letymbiotis added.

Meanwhile, migrant non-governmental organisation (NGO) Kisa slammed the interior minister, saying he has no right to act as a judge and order the deportation of the 33 migrants, who need to be given due process.

“The interior minister’s decision that their asylum applications should be examined within the day clearly indicates that the examination will be formal to give a negative decision so that deportation orders can then be issued regardless of whether they have a well-founded fear of persecution or no,” the NGO said.

This decision is a violation of refugee law because one of the basic principles of asylum legislation is the fair process of examining the asylum application, it added.

Kisa added that they believe that Monday night’s incidents are not isolated, but unfortunately, they will not be the last either.

“It is to be expected that these incidents exist since the reception centre has de facto turned into a closed detention centre, where a huge number of people with such different needs have been gathered,” the organisation said.

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