“At 4:30 am on July 1st, military units moved into several camps in Arsal and demolished at least 20 homes. The presence of soldiers in those camps at dawn, and the demolition of homes with heavy machinery is a traumatizing event witnessed by families who had already lost everything. We fear that this is the start and more demolitions will take place tomorrow.
Depriving refugees of their already very basic shelter and leaving them out on the streets is not a solution. The demolitions in Arsal come in the context of deteriorating conditions for Syrian refugees, who in the past months have faced an increasingly coercive environment making their lives even harder. We call on the Lebanese authorities to continue to show compassion to refugees who depend on Lebanon for their safety and dignity.
If demolitions are to continue, at a bare minimum we appeal to the authorities to give alternatives to refugees, allow them to retain their personal belongings and give them more time to place their families in safety. Schools, health facilities, and water and sanitation structures must be protected. Arsal suffers from extreme weather, flooding and harsh winters, and forcing refugees into simple tents creates substantial health and safety risks. Arsal also has a high proportion of refugees with special needs. We call on Lebanon to follow through its commitments made at the Brussels Conference and on donors to continue supporting the Lebanese government to host refugees with dignity.”
- In April, the Higher Defense Council, a military body, declared that all “semi-permanent structures” built by Syrian refugees using materials other than timber and plastic sheeting in informal camps must be deconstructed. Orders were given to implement this decision in Arsal first. Refugees were given until June 9 to bring their homes into compliance, after which any non-compliant structures will be demolished. The deadline was then extended to July 1st. As of June 27, less than half of refugees homes in Arsal had been demolished by their inhabitants, out of a total of more than 2,700 structures.
- Between 2,500 and 3,000 units would be directly impacted by the demolitions. As each unit houses on average 5 people, including 3 children, that would be between 12,500 and 15,000 people, including 7,500 to 9,000 children.
- Photos available here