Hundreds of Syrian refugees flee after fire destroys camp in Lebanon


A fire broke out overnight Saturday and continued into Sunday at a refugee camp for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, forcing nearly 400 people to flee their tents, according to United Nations and Lebanese officials.

The fire broke out after a fight between a Lebanese family in al-Miniyeh in northern Lebanon and Syrians living in the camp, according to Lebanese media reports.

A Lebanese official said the army is investigating the cause of the fire and conducting raids to round up those responsible for the altercation.

Four people have been taken to hospital with minor injuries following the blaze, Khaled Kabbara, a UN Refugee Agency spokesman in northern Lebanon, said.

Some residents went back to the camp – an informal settlement on a plot of rented land – on Sunday to see if they could recover anything from the wreckage, Kabbara said.

The entire camp, where around 375 people lived, was burnt to the ground after the fire, Mr. Kabbara said.

Images showed refugees observing the remains of the destroyed camp in the northern town of Bhanine on Sunday, with smoke still rising from parts.

Most of the refugees have sought shelter in other nearby informal settlements, and some members of the local community have also offered shelter, Kabbara said.

Tensions are common in Lebanon – where more than one million refugees are living – between citizens and Syrian refugees who have fled the war in their country.

Mr. Kabbara said altercations between residents and Syrian refugees often “catastrophically impact the community as a whole”.

Tensions between Lebanese and Syrians also date back to a time when Syria dominated its smaller neighbour for almost three decades, with thousands of troops stationed in Lebanon.

They withdrew in 2005 following the assassination of Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister, which sparked massive anti-Syrian protests.

The fire that has devastated the camp in northern Lebanon comes months after a blaze destroyed Europe’s largest refugee camp in Greece, where more than 12,500 people were living.

Lebanon is host to more than a million Syrian refugees, displaced by the country’s civil war which started in 2011. (Source: Independent UK)