Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 1 December 2020

Syrian refugee sets himself ablaze in Lebanon

Life has got harder for thousands of Lebanon's refugees as an economic crisis bites

epa08798578 A view of the damaged grain silos at the destroyed port area, three months after a huge explosion hit the city in Beirut, Lebanon, 04 November 2020. At least 190 people were killed and more than six thousand injured in the Beirut blast that devastated the port area on 04 August and believed to have been caused by an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse. EPA/WAEL HAMZEH
epa08798578 A view of the damaged grain silos at the destroyed port area, three months after a huge explosion hit the city in Beirut, Lebanon, 04 November 2020. At least 190 people were killed and more than six thousand injured in the Beirut blast that devastated the port area on 04 August and believed to have been caused by an estimated 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse. EPA/WAEL HAMZEH

A Syrian refugee in Lebanon set himself ablaze outside the Beirut headquarters of the UN's refugee agency on Thursday, a spokesman for the organisation told AFP.

"In a tragic incident this morning, a Syrian refugee registered with UNHCR tried to self-immolate by setting himself on fire near the organisation's Reception centre in Beirut," UNHCR said.

The 58-year-old male "victim was rescued by UNHCR security personnel and later taken to a hospital by the Lebanese civil defence for medical attention", it said.

UNHCR did not say why the man set himself ablaze, but a spokesman for Lebanon's Internal Security Forces told AFP that it was because he could not afford medical treatment for his sick daughter.

The ISF spokesman said the man, who was being treated at the nearby Rafik Hariri hospital, was in a stable condition.

Lebanon says it hosts 1.5 million Syrians, nearly one million of whom are officially registered as refugees with the UN. Syria has been in a state of civil war for nearly a decade.

The refugees' already dire conditions have deteriorated over the past year, as Lebanon grapples with its worst economic crisis since its own civil war, which ended in 1990.

A rapid devaluation of the Lebanese pound has sent prices soaring while banking controls on deposits restricts access to savings.

A Lebanese army soldier passes in front of an anti-government protester holding a national flag and blocking a main highway that links Beirut with north Lebanon during a protest against rising prices and worsening economic and financial conditions, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. AP Photo
A Lebanese army soldier passes in front of an anti-government protester holding a national flag and blocking a main highway that links Beirut with north Lebanon during a protest against rising prices and worsening economic and financial conditions, Monday, Oct. 5, 2020. Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. AP Photo

Tens of thousands of people had already lost their jobs before a coronavirus outbreak in February dealt a final blow to many ailing businesses.

An August 4 explosion at Beirut's port that killed more than 200 people, including more than 40 Syrians, further compounded Lebanon's economic woes.

Looking for a way out, many Syrians have attempted deadly clandestine journeys across the Mediterranean in recent months.

The Lebanese government, meanwhile, has continued to call for their repatriation, despite warnings from aid groups and international agencies that it is not safe for them to return.

Updated: November 5, 2020 07:30 PM

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