Kurds and Afghans Destroy New French Refugee Camp
Violent Fight Between Immigrant Gangs
A refugee camp in northern France burned down Monday night after a massive brawl involving more than 150 immigrants broke out between rival groups of Kurds and Afghans, French authorities said.
The fire destroyed most of the Grande-Synthe migrant camp near Dunkirk and the fighting left several people injured, according to the regional prefect, Michel Lalande.
As many as 1,600 immigrants were living in the camp at the time of the fire, many of whom lost all the meager possessions they had, Lalande said.
As Many as a Thousand Immigrants Missing After Rampage
Around 500 immigrants were taken to nearby gymnasiums, but the rest are unaccounted for, Lalande and Damien Careme, mayor of Grande-Synthe, told reporters Tuesday.
“There is nothing left but a heap of ashes,” Lalande said. “It will be impossible to put the huts back where they were before.”
Grande-Synthe was set up last year by the medical aid group Doctors Without Borders and housed mostly Kurdish refugees. Its population swelled in October after the notorious Calais refugee camp, located about 25 miles away, was shuttered and destroyed.
A large number of immigrants arrived from Afghanistan recently, further increasing the camp population.
Corenne Torre, head of the group’s French operation, told the Associated Press that authorities are scrambling to find the unaccounted-for immigrants.
“We just don’t know where they are,” she said.
Investigators are still trying to determine the exact cause of the fire, though Lalande and Careme said authorities believe it was set intentionally as part of Monday night’s brawl.
Refugees Destroy More Just a Camp
Many refugees lost their few personal belongings and important documents during the blaze.
“I lost all my documents,” said an Iraqi immigrant who identified himself only as Albidani, standing outside the camp. “I just have only this paper that says I’m a refugee in France.”
He said Kurds and Afghans had clashed before the fire erupted. “We don’t know exactly for what they fight” but just look at what happened today, he said.
At Least 16 Casualties Following the Refugee Riot
Torre said 10 immigrants went to the hospital with injuries sustained during the fire. At least six immigrants were wounded during the brawl, three of whom suffered stab wounds. Another immigrant was left in critical condition after being hit by a car outside the camp.
Riot police intervened to end the brawl, which led to further fighting as the immigrants turned on the French authorities.
Immigrants have gathered for decades along the coast in northern France, with hopes of reaching Britain.
The Grande-Synthe camp has seen several violent incidents in recent months, with the most recent coming last week when immigrants tried to block traffic and climb onto vehicles on a nearby highway.
The cost to the French people of this latest act of refugee violence is as yet unknown. As the refugee crisis in Europe continues, the future can only bring more violence of this sort.
Source: Voice of America with additional reporting.