Over 200 Syrian Families Fled Bcharre Over Mounting Hostility

AFP / Ibrahim CHALHOUB

At least 270 Syrian families have left the northern Lebanese town Bcharre, as hostility towards them mounted over a murder committed by a Syrian national, the UN refugee agency said Friday.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees condemned “collective reprisals against Syrians in the town,” of Bcharre, noting that many of the families fled in fear without taking their belongings.

“Collective punishment for a whole community for an incident involving one individual is unacceptable,” a UNHCR spokesperson said in a statement.

Many of those who fled the town said they were chased out by Bcharre residents after a Syrian refugee on Monday was accused of shooting dead a Lebanese resident, sparking widespread tension and hostility.

Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported forced evictions of Syrians in the wake of the murder, contradicting a statement by Bcharre’s mayor denying that the Syrians had left out of fear. 

According to an AFP correspondent in Tripoli, dozens of Syrian families recently gathered outside a UNHCR building in the northern city.

A 31-year-old Syrian mother of five told the AFP correspondent, “A group of young men in Bcharre assaulted us, threatened us, and started a fire in the house.”

“We picked up our children and ran away to Tripoli,” the mother added.

Yassin Hassan, a 30-year-old Syrian who had lived in Bcharre for years, said he was beaten by a group of men.

Tripoli is located more than 40 kilometres (25 miles) east from Bcharre, and is among the most welcoming destinations in Lebanon for refugees.

UNHCR said it received “a large number of refugees from Bcharre” in its Tripoli reception center. They encouraged the Syrian refugees to find alternative housing but those with nowhere to stay were moved to shelters, a spokesperson told AFP

Currently, the reasons behind the murder that fueled anti-Syrian sentiments in Bcharre remains shrouded in mystery. A judicial source said investigations were still underway.