At least 13 people were detained following an anti-immigrant riot in the southern city of Limassol overnight on Friday, in which five people were injured in clashes with anti-riot squads, Cyprus police said on Saturday.
The police told state-run CyBC radio that Friday’s violent protest gathered some 500 people and caused extensive damage to properties. The Fire Brigade announced that they had been called to put out at least five fires set by marauding rioters.
According to the State-run Cyprus News Agency (CNA), the authorities acknowledged that the police failed to contain the racist violence during an emergency meeting on Saturday morning convened by President Nicos Christodoulides.
“There is not much that can be said, apart from the disgraceful scenes we witnessed… What we saw last night has nothing to do with immigration, and we should not confuse the two issues – it is a matter of public order,” Christodoulides said.
He added that those proved responsible would bear the financial cost of the damages they caused.
CNA said that at the two-hour meeting, the authorities decided to quickly review and establish new operational procedures, as an anti-fascist protest march is scheduled for Saturday evening by groups sympathetic to the immigrants. The authorities are concerned that extreme right youths will try to attack the march.
Cyprus is currently experiencing a rising anti-immigrant sentiment following clashes last Monday between young Cypriots and hundreds of refugees who had taken over an abandoned tourist complex in the western sea resort town of Chlorakas, next to the city of Paphos.
Christodoulides said that about 6,000 immigrants arrived in Cyprus up to now this year, about one-half of the figure registered in the same period last year, and there was an increase in the number of irregular immigrants who were repatriated.
Still, Cyprus has the highest ratio of immigrants to its population of about 1 million, with asylum seekers representing some 6 percent of the island’s population.
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