Clashes erupt and fires ignite in overcrowded Cypriot migrant center | Migration News

Clashes reportedly broke out between two groups at the reception centre, police said.

Clashes erupted and fires were set at an overcrowded reception center for migrants in Cyprus, according to police and witnesses.

Thick plumes of smoke rose above the reception facility at Pournaras, about 22 km (14 miles) west of the capital, Nicosia, on Friday.

Witnesses told Reuters news agency that people from the camp had fled, running along a road with their belongings. Police said individuals left the camp, which is not a closed facility, when the fires broke out.

Migrants watch a fire outside Pournara refugee camp during clashes [Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters]

Police said clashes appeared to have broken out between two groups in the center. The fires were put out by firefighters but sporadic clashes continued until early afternoon, police said.

“A number of tents have been set on fire…the situation has now calmed down,” a police spokesman said.

Pournaras is hosting well over 1,000 people as Cyprus struggles to cope with an influx of asylum seekers from Syria and African countries.

Many travel to the southern part of the island, controlled by the internationally recognized government of ethnically divided Cyprus, through a buffer zone that separates it from the area controlled by Turkish Cypriots.

Authorities in Nicosia said last week that this year alone 17,000 people had entered their jurisdiction through irregular channels. There were 12,285 over the whole of 2021.

A migrant walks by burnt tents in the Pournara refugee camp during clashes in Kokkinotrimithia, on the outskirts of Nicosia
A migrant walks by burnt tents in Pournara refugee camp [Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters]