- UN High Commissioner for Refugees continued and said that some of the wounded were taken to hospital, without specifying the number.
- The Lebanese authorities have called on the refugees to return to Syria, although human rights groups warn that the war-torn country is not yet safe.
- The European Union begins a coordinated campaign to vaccinate against the Covid-19 epidemic
Official media reported that a camp for Syrian refugees in northern Lebanon was set on fire on Saturday night, after a quarrel between members of the camp and a local Lebanese family. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees confirmed that a large fire broke out in a camp in the Minya region in the north of the country.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees continued and said that some of the wounded were taken to hospital, without specifying the number. “The fire has spread to all the tented shelters” – made of plastic sheets and wood, UNHCR spokesman Khaled Kabbara told AFP. He confirmed that the camp houses about 75 families. The official Lebanese News Agency stated that the fire followed an “altercation” between a member of a Lebanese family and “Syrian workers.
The agency added that other young men from the Lebanese family “set fire to some of the refugee tents.” The Lebanese Civil Defense worked to control the fire, and the army and police deployed to restore calm, according to the agency.
A security source told Agence France-Presse that gunfire was heard, indicating that the quarrel in the Bhanin area in Minya erupted when Syrian workers demanded a wage that employers refused to pay. However, the same source said at a later time that initial investigations found that the dispute may have stemmed from harassment of a Syrian woman.
Kabbara said, ““Some families have fled the area out of fear because there were also sounds of explosions caused by household gas canisters blowing up.” Lebanon says it hosts about 1.5 million Syrians, including about one million registered as refugees with the United Nations.
The Lebanese authorities have called on the refugees to return to Syria, although human rights groups warn that the war-torn country is not yet safe. In November, about 270 Syrian refugee families fled the town of Bcharre, in northern Lebanon, after a Syrian citizen was accused of killing a Lebanese citizen with bullets, which sparked widespread tensions.
EU Begins a Mass Vaccination Campaign
The European Union begins a coordinated campaign to vaccinate against the Covid-19 epidemic, in a move described by the President of the European Commission as a “influential manifestation of European unity.” Ursula von der Leyen said on Saturday that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine had arrived in the European Union member states.
“This is a touching moment of unity,” European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted on Saturday ahead of the vaccination program’s start. “With vaccination, we will put this pandemic behind us.”
Some countries began the vaccination campaign on Saturday, when they said they did not want to wait another day. European Union countries recorded a total of 335,000 deaths due to the disease. More than 14 million people have been infected, and strict lockdowns are now in place in nearly all EU member states.
The vaccination campaign begins in the countries of the European Union after the European Medicines Agency and the European Commission issued a license to use the Pfizer-Biontech vaccine. The European Union has signed a contract to obtain two billion doses of vaccines from a number of pharmaceutical companies.