In Cyprus, migrants fear further violence after a series of racist attacks

Shops resume activity on the promenade in Limassol, Cyprus, on September 20, 2023.

In Limassol, on the south coast of Cyprus, life has resumed in multicultural businesses targeted, at the beginning of September, by anti-migrant attacks, located facing the sea. A Vietnamese grocery store which was ransacked has reopened its doors, Egyptian restaurants with still broken windows are preparing grilled meats and a handful of men are smoking hookah in a café Syrian. At night, Arab or Asian customers get their hair cut at two Syrian hairdressers and Nepalese and Indian migrants meet for dinner in a small bar.

Yet, ” it is not like it used to besays a Nepalese woman who wishes to remain anonymous. I really liked Cyprus: each community had its own habits there and we felt safe. Today, I live in fear that the violence will repeat itself. » The young woman, a widow, provides for the needs of her young daughter who remains in Nepal with relatives.

Taysir Ramadan saw his hair salon damaged during the racist attack, in Limassol (Cyprus), September 19, 2023.
Damage in one of the targeted hair salons, in Limassol (Cyprus), September 19, 2023.

“The Syrians came to relax in the evening on the seaside, it’s a beautiful place, free. Since the violence, they no longer do it. I felt comfortable in Cyprus, but now I wonder if I should leave”, asks Taysir Ramadan, a Syrian who has lived in Cyprus for fifteen years, where he runs a men’s hair salon. He keeps on his phone the video surveillance images which captured the outbreak of hatred on the night of 1er September: one of his employees is dozing on a bench in front of the closed shop. Hooded men approach, beat him and break the window. Then one of them throws a Molotov cocktail into the room, which catches fire. “It took a week of construction to restore the place”deplores Taysir, who estimates the damage at more than 14,000 euros.

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The violence was preceded by a demonstration on the seafront, around a slogan: “Refugees are not welcome”. Between 150 and 200 individuals, dressed in black, their faces often hidden. Most foreign traders, who often accumulated loans to start their business, preferred to close early. Some, living nearby, watched the scenes of destruction with racing hearts. “I was in a room above the grocery store. I warned my mother not to come back, that it was dangerous”reports Flora, a 17-year-old Vietnamese woman. “Within a few minutes, we were dead”, says Moustapha, a young Syrian hairdresser, still in shock from the Molotov cocktail shots. Witnesses denounce the apathy of the police that evening.

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