Man sets himself alight outside UN refugee headquarters in Geneva

UNHCR headquarters is opposite an asylum centre

A side entrance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) where a Syrian Kurdish man in his 30s set himself on fire is seen in Geneva, Switzerland, October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Marina Depetris

A Syrian Kurdish man set himself on fire Wednesday outside the headquarters of the United Nations refugee agency in Geneva.

The German resident, 31, did not provide any explanation for his actions, Geneva police spokesman Silvain Guillaume-Gentil said.

"We can imagine his reasons, but we do not have anything concrete," Mr Guillaume-Gentil said. "He had a hard time expressing himself when help arrived."

Kurds have organised a series of demonstrations to protest the assault that Turkey launched on October 9 against Kurdish fighters in north-eastern Syria.

The incident occurred shortly before 8:00am local time outside UNHCR, which is across the street from the Palais des Nations, the UN's European headquarters.

Responders arrived quickly and the injured man was transported by helicopter to a hospital in Lausanne, where he was being treated for his injuries, police said.

"We are saddened and shocked [about] an incident of self-immolation that happened in front of our Geneva headquarters this morning," said Andrej Mahecic, spokesman for UNHCR.

The man had set himself ablaze and then tried to enter the UNHCR building but security officers and medical services intervened and the fire was put out, Mr Mahecic said. "We hope he will recover," he said.

The UNHCR building is across the street from a collective shelter for asylum seekers, including Syrian Kurds.

"I saw the flames and the security agents from the building came and then a few minutes after that the police and ambulance. There are Syrians here [at the asylum centre], but I can't confirm [the man] was a resident."

A witness at the asylum centre said that the man resembled a "huge human flame". "I doubt he could survive that," the witness said.