Lebanese Army dismantles Syrian refugee shantytown

The Lebanese army began dismantling a Syrian refugee camp in an arid, rugged area on the border with Syria as the deadline given by local authorities to leave by themselves expired, as reported by humanitarian organizations.

The authorities, fearing that the refugees would permanently settle in the area, had ordered them to demolish the alleged “illegal” buildings. They allowed them to use only wood and sacking to make temporary accommodation for their shelter.

The final date for the demolition of the buildings in the Arsal area was June 9, but was postponed for July 1st.

At dawn, army units penetrated many camps in Arsal and demolished at least 20 homes, seven organizations including Oxfam, Save the Children and NRC (Norwegian Council for Refugees) said in a joint statement. “We are afraid that this is only the beginning and that other demolitions will be carried out tomorrow,” they added.

About 15,000 people, of whom 7,500 are children, are threatened by these demolitions involving 3,000 buildings, according to the same sources.

Many refugees have been forced to demolish their homes in the last few weeks. Until 27 June, less than half of the buildings in Arsal had been demolished.

“If demolition is to continue, we urge authorities to provide refugees with alternatives, allow them to rescue their personal belongings and give them more time to find shelter for their families,” NGOs asked.

Arsal mayor Basel al-Houtayeri said that these demolitions are “limited in size” and only concern concrete buildings.

Lebanon, a country of 4 million people, has received 1.5-2 million Syrian refugees after the war broke out in 2011. Out of these, about 1 million have been reported by the UN as refugees.

Government officials often denounce the presence of these people in the country, considering them responsible for Lebanon’s worsening economic situation.