NICOSIA – Cypriot police said clashes broke out and fires were started at the overcrowded Pournaras refugee reception center, scenes reported of smoke rising over the facility about 14 miles west of the capital.
Witnesses told the news agency Reuters that people from the camp had fled, running along a major road with their belongings. Police said individuals left the camp, which is not a closed facility, when the fires broke out.
Police said there were battles between two groups at the center, the report said, but no indication of the ethnicity or other details, including what the fighting may have been about.
The fires were extinguished by the fire brigade but sporadic clashes continued until early afternoon on Oct. 28, police said, the report added.
Pournaras has been housing far more than the 1,000 person capacity as the country is trying to deal with an influx of asylum seekers from Syria and from African countries.
Many travel to the southern part of the island, controlled by the internationally recognised government of ethnically split Cyprus, through a buffer zone that separates it from the Turkish Cypriot-controlled area in the north.
Authorities in Nicosia earlier said that so far in 2022 some 17,000 people had entered their jurisdiction through irregular channels. There were 12,285 in the whole of 2021 although Cyprus – which is a member of the European Union – hasn’t been a major destination for refugees and migrants.