A 35-year-old army officer, named as Nikos Metals, has confessed to the murder of five migrant women and two girls over a three year period and is being recognised as Cyprus’ first serial killer.
The victims include Mary Rose Tiburcio and her six-year-old daughter, Arian Palanas Lozano and Maricar Valtez Arquiola, who were all domestic workers from the Philippines, Livia Bunea and her young daughter Elena from Romania, as well as a woman of Indian or Nepalese descent. The suspect was arrested after police traced Ms Tiburcio’s online messages.
Protesters have accused police and officials of not properly investigating the missing migrant women due to their nationality. Cyprus’ justice minister, Ionas Nicolaou, has resigned and called for Cyprus’ police complaints commission to hold an independent inquiry into the lack of investigation over the missing women.
Several of the women were reported missing after they first disappeared, but the murders were only discovered once two bodies were found in the last few weeks when a tourist had been photographing a disused mine near Nicosia, when heavy rain flooded and brought one of the bodies to the surface. Police then searched a nearby lake and discovered more bodies in suitcases.
The treatment of migrant domestic workers in Cyprus has been described as modern slavery, and that migrant women are the least represented in society. Many migrant women travel to Cyprus, which is part of the European Union, to work as housemaids in private houses and hotels, as well as carers. These workers are usually paid less than the legal minimum of €400 a month.
Doros Polkarpou, the executive director of Lisa, an NGO supporting migrants in Cyprus, states that law in 1991 was introduced to fill any gaps in employment, which has led to between 70,000 and 80,000 migrants entering the country. Polykarpou describes the hostility aimed at migrants by Greek Cypriots stems from the Turkish occupation of the island, which has been present since 1974, and that Greek Cypriots practice xenophobia against ethnic migrants to preserve their own ethnic identity.