George Psyllides, Sunday Mail (Cyprus), Jul. 21
THE CHIEF of Police yesterday voiced concern over the increasing involvement of foreigners in serious crime on the island.
Speaking at a news conference where he presented the statistics for serious crime since the beginning of the month, Tassos Panayiotou said foreigners were involved in two out of four murders and two out of seven reported rapes. Four of the murders have been solved, as have three of the rape cases.
The statistics were taken only from the solved cases.
Three foreign suspects have been implicated in six arsons and police have arrested 12 foreigners in drugs-related cases, the Chief said.
Panayiotou said the numbers showed a grim picture: 30 per cent of the serious crime last year was committed by foreigners who belonged in a population of under 100,000 — legal and illegal.
Panayiotou said there was a “disproportionate” involvement of foreign students and asylum seekers or refugees in serious crime and urged authorities to expedite asylum procedures in order to contain the phenomenon, which he said created an additional problem for the police.
In 2002 there were 950 asylum seekers, over 4,000 last year and 3,900 in the first six months of this year, Panayiotou said.
“I cannot believe so many political refugees suddenly gathered in Cyprus,” the Chief said.
He said that a large number of foreigners who arrived as students became asylum seekers or political refugees by ‘exploiting the system’.
“That is why we urge for the procedure to be expedited to differentiate the real refugees or people in need,” he added.
He said co-operation between the colleges and the police was not satisfactory: the colleges did not inform the authorities when foreign students failed to show up for class after registration.
Panayiotou denied that by revealing the statistics he was reinforcing the xenophobia already felt by Cypriots.
“I do not think I have to hide the statistics because it would make xenophobia worse,” Panayiotou said.
He added: “We’re not doing this to instil xenophobia.”
In any case, the chief said, the crimes he gave as statistics have been already analysed by the media in detail.
In light of the situation, police would be cracking down on lawlessness across the island.
He assured however that only those — foreign and local — breaking the law would be targeted.