The massive fire erupted at the camp outside the French city of Dunkirk at around 11:00 pm following clashes between the Kurdish and Afghan migrants. According to reports, the violence erupted over alleged accommodation discrimination. The Afghan refugees who came to Dunkirk after the dismantling of the Calais “Jungle” at the end of October 2016 were apparently unhappy about being housed in collective kitchens while the Kurds slept in chalets.
Scuffles between residents of the makeshift refugee camp began in the early evening and quickly escalated into a violent brawl in which knives came into play. As tensions soared, at least six people were rushed to a nearby Dunkirk hospital, most with stab wounds.
One of the migrants suffered “cardiorespiratory arrest” after apparently being run over by a car on the A16 motorway, as clashes continued outside the camp, Le Figaro noted.
Local police were dispatched to the campsite to intervene in the Kurdish- Afghani clashes which involved up to 150 refugees. According to reports, police fired over 20 volleys of tear gas grenades in an attempt to restore order both in and outside the Grande-Synthe shelter, Le Parisien noted.
The cause of the fire which broke out in the camp that is home to some 1,500 migrants is yet to be determined. Firefighters said at least ten people had been injured in the blaze, which involved about twenty wooden chalets that can accommodate up to four people, AFP reported.
“There is nothing left but a heap of ashes,” Michel Lalande, prefect of France’s Nord region, told reporters at the scene as firefighters continued to battle the flames. “It will be impossible to put the huts back where they were before.”
The migrants who lost their 'homes' were evacuated into emergency accommodation, the prefect said, adding that the city of Grande Synthe had already vacated two gymnasiums. By early Tuesday, at least 165 people had been relocated.
Last month, the French government said that it planned to dismantle the Grande-Synthe refugee camp built by the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) charity “as soon as possible” after camp residents had repeatedly clashed with police.
Up to 10,000 camp residents were dispersed across France after the Calais Jungle was cleared in October 2016. Many of those who were not granted asylum, deported or sent to overburdened reception centers have now resorted to sleeping rough across northern France as migrants continue arriving with hopes to reach the UK.