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Malicious fire and reconstruction

Tunisia (Shousha camp) – That night the phone of my UNHCR colleague Nanig, sleeping next door, never stopped ringing. In the early morning of 24 May 2011, she told me in a sad voice that refugees had been calling for help all night long as Shousha camp was on fire.

As a group of refugees blocked the main highway between the Ras Ajdir border point and the rest of Tunisia seeking immediate resettlement, some 500 local Tunisians descended on the camp in anger. Despite the efforts of the Tunisian military to prevent clashes, violence erupted in the camp between local Tunisians and the camp residents. As a result, two refugees died and nineteen others were injured and transported to local hospitals. Two thirds of the camp were burned down and looted. Many camp residents fled to the surrounding desert.

On 26 May order had been restored by the Tunisian authorities, allowing UNHCR and its partners to engage in a major reconstruction exercise. By the end of August the new Shousha camp was completed and fire debris removed. Refugees will need much longer for this tragedy to become a distant memory.

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