Tensions force evacuation of Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon
Date: 2019-06-10 12:28
Dozens of Syrian refugees dismantled their tents, filled trucks with belongings and left a camp they lived in for years in eastern Lebanon on Sunday after local authorities ordered them to evacuate in the aftermath of a brawl with local firefighters.
Lebanese officials say the decision to evacuate is to prevent revenge attacks and further tension after residents of the town threatened to storm the camp.
A curfew on the Syrian refugees living in Deir al-Ahmar, estimated at 6,000, was put in place for two days and police patrolled the area.
"This is to ensure their safety and to stop the bloodshed," said Jean Fakhry, a Lebanese municipality official in Deir al-Ahmar told The Associated Press.
The evacuation of more than 90 tents reflects the growing tension in Lebanon over hosting more than 1 million Syrian refugees since 2011.
Last week, a fire broke out on the hill overlooking the camp sparking panic. When firefighters arrived, residents pelted their vehicle with stones over what they said was the rescuers' late arrival. A brawl ensued and a firefighter was injured and tents were damaged.
Orient Net learned from local sources that a Lebanese civil defense driver came very late to put out the fire in the camp. The angry reaction of the IDPs made the driver ram his car into one of the tents angrily, this careless act angered the locals and revenged by beating the Lebanese driver.
The army arrived on the scene and arrested more than 30 Syrians. The camp residents fled and later, unknown assailants set three of the tents ablaze. The tensions led to the evacuation order and the lockdown on refugees in the area.
"There was local anger and revolt," Fakhry, the Lebanese official said. "We decided they should not come back to avoid another problem and bloodshed."
The UN refugee agency was on the scene Sunday as the Syrians prepared to leave. In a statement, the agency said all perpetrators should be prosecuted as an investigation is underway.
"A collective punishment of Syrian refugees in Lebanon will further escalate the situation," the UNHCR said. "All refugees in Lebanon should not be punished over one incident and outside the justice system."