700 Syrian refugees flee from Lebanon's Deir El Ahmar camp

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-11 23:10:30|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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BEIRUT, June 11 (Xinhua) -- Around 700 Syrian refugees fled from Deir El Ahmar in Bekaa after they attacked members of Civil Defense in the town a week earlier, said Jean Fakhry, head of the Deir al-Ahmar Municipalities Union, on Tuesday.

Fakhry told Xinhua that civil defense members came to Deir El Ahmar last Wednesday to extinguish a fire that broke out in one of the town's camps, which caused heavy dust prompting Syrian refugees to complain about it by screaming and throwing stones at the civil defense's vehicle.

Fakhry explained that civil defense members had to move fast with their vehicles to put off the fire which caused all the dust but they did not do it on purpose.

"Syrian refugees were very angry that they ended up beating two members of the civil defense," Fakhry said.

Fakhry noted that the refugees fled from Deir El Ahmar out of fear of potential repercussions from locals.

"We did not oblige anyone to leave. Refugees packed their stuff and fled out of fear that the Lebanese in the area would react to their attack against civil defense members," Fakhry explained.

Fakhry said that refugees are prevented from returning to the camp in Deir El Ahmar.

"Around 90 percent of these refugees work in agriculture with Lebanese farmers residing close to Deir El Ahmar; so they have moved to stay with these farmers," he said.

Refugees' attack against civil defense members fueled outrage among officials in the area, prompting them to issue a decision preventing refugees from returning to the area.

"We have prevented refugees from returning to their camp to avoid any possible tensions between them and locals in the future," Baalbek-Hermel Governor Bashir Khodor was quoted as saying by the National News Agency.

"We are not against Syrian refugees; they are welcome in our towns but on condition that they behave peacefully," he said.

According to Fakhry, Deir El Ahmar hosts around 6,000 Syrian refugees.

More than 1 million Syrian refugees are registered with the the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Lebanon, while the Lebanese government estimated the true number of Syrians in the country at 1.5 million.

The flow of Syrian refugees to Lebanon has weighed heavily on the country's economy and infrastructure, prompting Lebanese officials to urge the international community for support in guaranteeing the return of refugees to Syria.

Fakhry noted that local people in Deir El Ahmar have become very upset because their financial situation has deteriorated after the flow of Syrian refugees to their town.

"Syrian refugees have competed with the Lebanese for job opportunities in the town," he said.

Likewise, political analyst Habib Boustani told Xinhua that Syrians are competing with the Lebanese in the job market which is creating great tension among local workforce and refugees.

"The problem that took place in Deir El Ahmar started as a simple problem but its impact was very big because the Lebanese in this area are already suffering from dire financial circumstances and they are aware that Syrians are the ones who are taking their jobs," he said.

Boustani noted that Syrians used to work in construction only but when real estate sector slowed down they moved to other sectors including agriculture which has exacerbated the situation.

Boustani called for an immediate political solution for returning Syrian refugees to secure areas in Syria.

He noted that the international community can provide help for refugees in Syria but not in Lebanon to encourage them to return to their homeland.

"Otherwise, future clashes may take place again," he said.

Boustani argued that the reason behind the delay in the return of refugees to their homeland is the unwillingness of the international community to help in this regard.

"Some countries aim to use this issue as pressure against the Lebanese and Syrian governments to achieve certain goals," he said.