Tunisia camp destroyed in fatal clashes, say UN

A camp in Tunisia for people fleeing the conflict in Libya has been nearly completely destroyed in clashes also involving local residents, the UN says.

At least two people died and now most of the 4,000 mainly African camp residents are staying out in the open.

“It’s the worst conditions; if there is a hell, I think it’s this,” an Eritrean doctor at the camp told the BBC.

The violence began after protesting refugees demanding resettlement blocked a road, angering locals.

Fleeing to desert

According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, some of the refugees – who are mainly from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan – wanted to be moved after a fire on Sunday night in the Eritrean section of the camp killed four people.

The next day, a large group of camp residents demanding immediate resettlement surrounded the UNHCR’s offices, threatened staff and then blocked a main road to the Ras Ajdir border point, an important trade route.

Aid workers were forced to withdraw, after which rival groups within Choucha camp began fighting each other, the UN said.

The situation deteriorated when 500 local Tunisians descended on the camp and many of the residents fled to the surrounding desert in the chaos.

“Two-thirds of the camp has been either looted or burned,” Firas Kayal, the UNHCR’s spokesman in Tunisia, told the BBC’s World Today programme.

“Various groups were fighting amongst each other, the security got totally out of control and the [Tunisian] army tried its best to control the crowds.”

Mr Kayal said it took a day and a half to gain control of the situation.

Eritrean doctor Alganesh Fessaha said tensions between the various nationalities began two weeks ago after an alleged rape attempt of a young girl.

“There is no security in this camp, the Tunisian police don’t intervene,” she said.

In a statement, the UNHCR said its staff had returned to the camp on Thursday and were now meeting representatives from all communities and security was top of the agenda.

Since February, when the conflict in Libya began, tens of thousands of people have fled to Tunisia on Libya’s western border.

The UN says it has received just more than half of the $80m (£49m) it has requested for the resulting refugee emergency in Tunisia.


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Posted by on May 28 2011 Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Tunisia camp destroyed in fatal clashes, say UN”

  1. I was one of the photojournalists present during first two day of unrest in Shousha camp. I got beaten on site by security forces and fierce local Tunisians who didn’t want anyone to cover the incidents. Protesters rescued me and facilitated my escape to the save place asking for highlighting their demands: access to drinkable water, better food, more security in the camp and what the most importing- working on perspectives to leave the camp in the near future. Fighting among groups of refugees from different nationalities are confined to small numbers of individuals and majority of the camp residents do not take part in these disgraceful incidents. They would like to leave in secure place, not to be scared about their lives. Photo story from Shousha camp here http://socialdocumentary.net/exhibit/Tomasz_Szustek/1174

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