Cyprus police make 21 arrests following anti-immigrant violence

NICOSIA (Reuters) -Cyprus police arrested 21 people after violent clashes involving immigrants and residents of a community in the west of the island which has a large population of asylum-seekers.

Police said migrant and locals were among those arrested late Monday during a second night of disturbances in the village of Chlorakas, 155 km (96 miles) west of the capital Nicosia.

Cyprus has struggled with a surge in asylum seekers in recent years, and advocacy groups argue the island has fumbled in its response.

The latest arrests followed a peaceful sit-down protest by migrants against violence on Sunday, where people wearing hoods damaged a property and vehicles belonging to non-Cypriots.

Tension boiled over again on Monday, with groups of migrants and Greek Cypriots kept apart by police using teargas and water cannon. One police officer was slightly hurt by a petrol bomb.

"Any attempt to disrupt safety and the peace will not be tolerated," said Victor Papadopoulos, head of the presidential press office.

Advocacy groups say anti-migrant sentiment has been on the rise and pointed to a number of incidents this year.

"We fear that the growing number of these incidents and exposure of refugees and migrants in vulnerable circumstances results from the lack of a comprehensive integration plan and corresponding actions," 14 advocacy groups said in a joint statement.

Tensions have been running high in Chlorakas for several years over what some locals believe is a disproportionately high number of asylum seekers and recognised refugees settled there.

The island's interior ministry declared the community off-limits to new arrivals in 2021.

Sunday's disturbances were preceded by a demonstration of around 300 people who marched through a central street in Chlorakas, calling for an end to irregular migration.

(Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by Stephen Coates and Mike Harrison)