Nine Palestinians arrested over protest violence

February 12, 2011
Police arrested nine Palestinians last night in connection with the violence which broke out at the Larnaca welfare office over delayed allowance cheques on Thursday, said police.

According to police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos, two 15-year-olds and two 16-year-olds were arrested and due to be taken to Larnaca district court for a remand hearing yesterday evening.

Another male was taken into custody after 7pm last night with police not ruling out further arrests.

Earlier yesterday, four Palestinian males, arrested for the injury of a police officer during a protest over delayed welfare cheques, were remanded into custody for four days.

These suspects included a 15-year-old, a 16-year-old, a 19-year-old and a 43-year-old.

On Thursday morning, 50 to 100 Palestinians protested the delay in receiving their monthly allowance for this past January outside the social security services in Larnaca, claiming their cheques were overdue by 10 days.

After a protracted meeting between a four-member group representing the demonstrators and Welfare authorities, some 30 impatient protestors stormed the offices leaving an intervening police officer with a facial injury and bruises.

Police had been manning the scene for security purposes.

Labour Minister Sotiroulla Charalambous, while condemning the violence had said it was Parliament and not her Ministry that was responsible for the delay in allowances, drawing ire from MPs.

Parliament recently decided that funds for asylum seekers’ allowances should be released on a monthly and not an annual basis.

The four suspects have said they were present at the Welfare Office solely to protest the delay in receiving their allowance and not to injure a police officer. They face charges of assault, causing bodily harm and injuring a law officer.

Police reports indicate there is reasonable suspicion of the four’s involvement in Thursday’s events, warning “if released they may influence other witnesses and there is a risk that they may flee the country”.

Palestinian authority in Nicosia representative Jamal Al Garoud apologised late Thursday afternoon for the police officer’s injury on behalf of the Palestinians in Larnaca.

“We want to apologise for what happened today because these people do not represent Palestinians…those who did what they did, represent themselves,” he said.

An unnamed Palestinian expressed satisfaction at the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance’s response to the cheques delay, in endeavouring to implement employment procedures for Palestinians so they are not solely reliant on a monthly allowance.

Meanwhile, Larnaca Mayor Andreas Moiseos has said there is a group of Palestinians in the town who, for some time now, have been behaving in ways their own community rejects, while causing problems for residents.

In light of these events, Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis – who denounced Thursday’s troubles saying “such behaviour will not be tolerated” – will be meeting this Tuesday with Palestinian organisations representatives, as well as the representative of the Palestinian authority in Cyprus, on issues concerning recognised refugees.

Other measures, such as relocating Larnaca Palestinians to provide them with further job opportunities and creating another two reception centres for asylum seekers, are also in the pipeline.

Various Parliamentary parties lashed out yesterday in response to Labour Minister Charalambous’ comments on the troubles. EDEK MP Antonis Koutalianos claimed her efforts to blame Parliament for the delay of the allowances was unfortunate.

Koutalianos also called upon the Minister to adopt a serious and responsible immigration policy that will safeguard the rights of a Cypriot citizen.

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