Asylum seekers flee overcrowded reception centre in Cyprus

Hundreds of asylum seekers fled the main reception centre in Cyprus for irregular migrants after a fire broke out there amid clashes, police said.

Chief of Police Stelios Papatheodorou said a large force of regular and anti-riot police officers was trying to contain the situation on Friday at the overcrowded Pournara reception centre, some 20 km west of the capital Nicosia, reports Xinhua news agency.

“The police force is doing whatever is possible to protect both residents of communities in the region and the migrants themselves,” he was quoted as saying by the local media.

Media reports said the reception centre was evacuated after people started to hurl stones at each other and set prefabricated buildings and tents on fire.

The police used teargas to control marauding crowds.

Twenty people were injured, including three security officers.

While three asylum seekers were taken to hospital, about 20 tents were destroyed.

Police said that large groups of asylum seekers fled the centre and were moving towards nearby communities in the area.

The Pournara centre was designed to host up to 1,000 people, but reports said the actual number of people living there is much higher.

Interior Minister Nicos Nouris has said that the authorities have been struggling to cope with a large influx of asylum seekers this year.

He said that 17,000 people had arrived through irregular channels in Cyprus up to last week, double the number of arrivals during the same period of 2021.

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