Tension forces evacuation of Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon

A Syrian family loads their belongings on a pickup, as they evacuate an informal refugee camp after a fight broke out last week between camp residents and Lebanese firefighters who arrived to put out a fire, in Deir Al-Ahmar, east Lebanon, Sunday, June 9, 2019. (AP)
Updated 10 June 2019

Tension forces evacuation of Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon

  • Lebanon allows only informal camps for Syrian refugees to prevent permanent settlements that would affect its delicate demographic balance

DEIR AL-AHMAR/LEBANON: Dozens of Syrian refugees have dismantled their tents in a camp they lived in for years in eastern Lebanon after authorities ordered their evacuation following a brawl with locals.
Jean Fakhry, a Lebanese official from Deir Al-Ahmar in the Bekaa Valley, said on Sunday the decision to evacuate the 90 tents was to avoid further friction.
Lebanon hosts over 1 million Syrian refugees who fled the war next door since 2011, overwhelming the country of nearly 5 million.
A fight broke out last week between camp residents and Lebanese firefighters who arrived to put out a fire.
More than 30 Syrians were arrested and unknown assailants burned down three tents.
Samar Awad, a 27-year-old Syrian, said camp residents are moving to a new area, miles away, with no water or electricity.
The authorities in April had set a June 9 deadline for Syrian refugees living in shelters built with materials other than timber and plastic sheeting in Arsal to bring their homes into compliance.
The planned demolition of concrete shelters housing Syrian refugees near the border could make at least 15,000 children homeless, aid groups earlier warned.
In Arsal, which lies in northeastern Lebanon, more than 5,000 structures made with concrete are slated for demolition. Similar measures could affect other communities in the near future.

SPEEDREAD

The authorities in April had set a June 9 deadline for Syrian refugees living in shelters built with materials other than timber and plastic sheeting in Arsal to bring their homes into compliance.

Lebanon allows only informal camps for Syrian refugees to prevent permanent settlements that would affect its delicate demographic balance.
Three international aid agencies — Save the Children, World Vision and Terre des Hommes — warned that children were most at risk and urged the government to hold off.

“For a child who barely eats, and often doesn’t go to school, losing a home is extremely traumatic. And we are talking about 15,000 children,” said Piotr Sasin from the Swiss-based Terre des Hommes charity.
The joint statement warned that the “demolition of many of these homes could result in the destruction of household water and sanitation systems, leaving children at high risk of illness and disease.”
Lebanon is home to an estimated 1.5 to 2 million refugees who have fled the conflict that erupted in 2011 when the Syrian regime repressed initially peaceful protests.
Lebanon’s economic and other woes are routinely blamed on Syrian refugees by local politicians and the government has ratcheted up the pressure to send them back.


Security conference told of ‘Iranian menace’ to shipping in the Gulf

Updated 22 October 2019

Security conference told of ‘Iranian menace’ to shipping in the Gulf

  • “Aviation and maritime security are at the top of the policy agenda in the region,” says Bahraini FM
  • Pompeo warned of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program

MANAMA: Delegates from more than 60 countries including Saudi Arabia met in Bahrain on Monday to discuss maritime security after attacks on tankers in the Gulf and Saudi oil installations, widely blamed on Iran.

“Aviation and maritime security are at the top of the policy agenda in the region,” Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa told the conference. “We must take a collective stand ... to take the necessary steps to protect our nations from rogue states.”

In a message to delegates, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned of the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program.

“This meeting comes at a critical moment in history,” he said. “The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, whether by air or sea, poses a serious threat to international peace and security.

“Together, we must all be committed to taking the necessary actions to stop countries that continue to pursue WMD at great risk to all of us.”

Countries taking part in the conference, including Israel, belong to the Maritime and Aviation Security Working Group, created in February during a Middle East conference in Warsaw.

“The meeting is an occasion to exchange views on how to deal with the Iranian menace and to guarantee freedom of navigation,” Bahrain’s foreign ministry said.

After the tanker attacks, the US formed a naval coalition to protect navigation. Bahrain, which hosts the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, joined in August, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE followed in September. The UK and Australia are the other main Western partners.