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Fears over gypsy influx
in The Cyprus Weekly, April 13-19, 2001

by Menelaos Hadjicostia

Weary Paphos residents met yesterday to talk out their collective unease over the latest influx of Turkish Cypriot gypsies settling in their neighbourhoods amid concerns the district may be fast becoming a dumping ground for immigrants.

"Citizens are concerned and have asked town officials to take a close look at the issue so that we can be ready in case of a massive arrival of gypsies," said Pheidias Sarikas, President of the Paphos Coordinating Committee of Parties and Organisations.

Some 153 gypsies crossed over from the occupied areas in the last month, 90 of whom have been housed in homes formerly belonging to Turkish Cypriots in the Paphos district.

Sarikas said that although the situation now appears to be under control, the committee will continue to keep a close eye on things and if need be, we will meet again to re-assess the issue.

However, he defended the concerns of many Paphos residents although some suggested that the meeting was too hastily arranged and could send mistaken signals of a Paphian proclivity towards racism and xenophobia.

"I have to make it crystal clear that not one member of the committee has raised the issue of prohibiting the arrival of Turkish Cypriots in Paphos," Sarikas said.

Interior Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou has been tight-lipped about where the gypsies - claiming to be fleeing the occupied north's economic woes - were to be taken following a knee-jerk reaction from fearful residents.

"Let's not exaggerate and I think that it's time that the thankfully few reactions should be tempered," said Christodoulou, adding that gypsies would be settled no closer than 3 kms from residential areas.

But committee members agreed that neither Paphos nor the government were prepared to deal with the arrival of the gypsies and urged that the identity of those who have crossed over is verified to determine who is and is not Turkish Cypriot.


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