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Godsend or ‘ghetto’: Syrian migrants flock to small Cyprus city

On the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, grappling with an inflow of asylum seekers, the small city of Chlorakas has develop into the centre of tensions. One-quarter of its residents are refugees.

Whereas native authorities speak of “ghettoization” and search to maneuver a few of them, lots of the newcomers renting flats there refuse to depart, saying they’ve nowhere else to go.

The Cypriot authorities says the divided nation has the best variety of first-time asylum functions within the European Union per capita, accusing Turkey of sending many throughout the UN-controlled buffer zone.

“We now have a demographic drawback,” mentioned Chlorakas Mayor Nicholas Liasides.

5 kilometres (three miles) from the west coast metropolis of Paphos, Chlorakas is house to 7,000 folks, 1,700 of whom are asylum seekers.

Most of them are from Syria, and their quantity has greater than doubled from 800 over the previous three years.

On the coronary heart of the problem, in keeping with the mayor, is the St Nicolas residential complicated on the outskirts of city the place round 700 of the refugees stay.

Situated on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean, the complicated formally generally known as ‘St Nicolas Elegant Residences’ consists of about 20 residential blocks. Its lustre started to fade following a 2018 monetary dispute between the proprietor and the municipality

Situated on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, the complicated formally generally known as “St Nicolas Elegant Residence” consists of about 20 peach-coloured residential blocks with terracotta tiles.

However its lustre started to fade following a 2018 monetary dispute between the proprietor and the municipality over unpaid water payments.

When the Covid pandemic from 2020 led to a plunge in international customer arrivals, refugees took their place.

– ‘Shameful’ –

Liasides informed AFP he believes the answer is to resettle the refugees all through Cyprus.

“It is a ghetto and really we need to break (up) this ghetto,” he mentioned.

When the Covid-19 pandemic led to a plunge in international customer arrivals, refugees took their place on the Saint Nicolas complicated

One month in the past the native authorities declared the location unfit for habitation, and reduce off the water provide to 250 residences.

“It is shameful,” mentioned Neofyto Paranetis, who’s in his 70s and manages the complicated.

He’s below prison investigation for alleged violation of an inside ministry decree, issued in December, which forbids any new refugees from staying in Chlorakas.

“These are simply excuses as a result of I’m housing refugees,” Paranetis mentioned.

Tensions in Chlorakas worsened in early January after two fights between refugees, a few of whom lived at St Nicolas, mentioned Paphos police spokesman Michalis Nicolaou.

“For one month we have been patrolling within the village each night, and we’ve investigated greater than 80 folks illegally residing there,” he mentioned, noting the ministerial ban on new residents.

Since early January townspeople have organised two protests, which drew dozens carrying indicators hostile to asylum seekers.

Syrian refugee Maher Ahmad, 43, sits along with his youngster on the Saint Nicolas residential complicated. Greater than 12,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Cyprus since 2011

A restaurant proprietor, who requested to stay nameless as a result of he would not “need any hassle” with the refugees, mentioned: “Folks listed below are hospitable in direction of the refugees, however now there are various who’re unlawful and creating issues right here.

“The general public within the village are scared to go close to the place as a result of there are too many refugees.”

Native enterprise proprietor Geoffrey Velloza, 50, mentioned that “to be sincere, I have never been affected by their presence. They’ve been completely respectable with me, however I really feel for others who have been made uncomfortable.”

– The place to go? –

Greater than 12,000 Syrians have sought refuge in Cyprus since 2011 when their nation’s civil struggle started, forcing tens of millions to flee overseas.

Since early January, townspeople have organised two protests which drew dozens carrying indicators hostile to asylum seekers

Those that reached Cyprus arrived on an island with its personal painful historical past of displacement.

The territory has been divided since Turkish troops invaded in 1974 and occupied its northern third.

A whole lot of hundreds of Greek Cypriots within the north and Turkish Cypriots within the south fled to the other sides.

Mohammed Ramadan Diab, 37, initially from Idlib in Syria, arrived illegally in Chlorakas by way of Turkey a bit of greater than a 12 months in the past.

In current weeks police investigated him at St Nicolas.

“Officers took me to the station and made me signal a doc, however I did not know what it mentioned,” the daddy of six recalled.

Syrian refugee Nayef al-Shouyoukh, 32, stands along with his kids on the Saint Nicolas residential complicated. ‘I do not know the place to go. I’m barely surviving,’ he says

“I am looking for some other place to remain, however folks refuse to lease to me as a result of I’m Syrian.”

One other Idlib native, Nayef al-Shouyoukh, 32, has stayed at St Nicolas for 3 years.

“Police repeatedly come to see me for an ID test. They pound the door with their toes,” scaring his three kids, he mentioned.

“I do not know the place to go. I’m barely surviving.”

– ‘Sieges and bombs’ –

St Nicolas costs 350 euros lease a month ($400) for a two-bedroom condo with a kitchen — electrical energy and web included.

Saint Nicolas costs 350 euros lease a month ($400) for a two-bedroom condo with a kitchen — electrical energy and web included

“We need to keep in our houses,” mentioned Abdallah al-Khaled, 25, who reached Chlorakas three years in the past after fleeing the ranks of the Syrian military.

“We survived sieges and bombs in Syria. We do not need to discover ourselves again on the road.”

Native authorities suggest to maneuver the refugees into camps in japanese Cyprus however these websites are already overpopulated, in keeping with migrants’ rights group Kisa.

In an announcement, Kisa mentioned the native authorities ought to set up programmes to assist the refugees combine.

Paranetis, the St Nicolas supervisor, mentioned “the federal government ought to thank us as a result of these refugees haven’t any options.

“Some day we’d additionally develop into refugees, like we have been in 1974 in the course of the Turkish invasion.”

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