UK

Dunkirk Grande-Synthe Refugee Camp Burns To The Ground

It was home to around 1,500 people.

11/04/2017 09:22 BST

A French refugee camp housing around 1,500 people has burned to the ground.

The Grande-Synthe camp near Dunkirk caught fire on Monday night.

Dramatic images showed the wooden huts which shelter refugees ablaze overnight.

PHILIPPE HUGUEN via Getty Images
A huge fire tears through the Grande-Synthe migrant camp
PHILIPPE HUGUEN via Getty Images
The camp has been reduced to a 'heap of ashes'

According to the BBC, Michel Lalande, prefect of France’s Nord region, said: “There is nothing left but a heap of ashes.”

The fire began after violence broke out in the camp.

Riot police moved into the camp outside the port city of Dunkirk to break up a clash that is believed to have been between Afghans against Kurds.

Five people were injured in the fight among 100 to 150 people, three of them hospitalised with knife wounds, the prefecture said, according to the Associated Press.

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People amid the smouldering ruins of the camp

Another person was hit by a car outside the camp and is in a critical condition, Reuters reported.

Officials linked the fight with the fire but stressed that an investigation is needed to determine the fire’s cause. Police refused all comment on both the violence and the fire.

Grande-Synthe, also known as the Liniere camp, is on the road between Dunkirk and Calais.

PHILIPPE HUGUEN via Getty Images
A fight broke out in the camp hours before the blaze began

It was set up by Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as MSF or Doctors Without Borders) last year, replacing a squalid tent city with rows of wooden huts.

Most of the people living there have fled violence and hardship in North Africa and the Middle East.

A surge of arrivals from Afghanistan has caused the camp’s population to spike recently.

PHILIPPE HUGUEN via Getty Images
The fire left much of the camp in ruins
Pascal Rossignol / Reuters
A child's bicycle is seen among the debris
Pascal Rossignol / Reuters
French firemen stand amid the ruins of the camp on Tuesday morning
Pascal Rossignol / Reuters
A fireman walks between some of the remaining shelters

Last week, migrants from the camp tried to block the nearby highway with tree trunks and branches to try and stop the traffic and clamber onto vehicles in the hope of reaching the UK.

French officials decided last month that the camp population must be reduced to 700 and security increased to keep out traffickers.

Authorities said the camp must be dismantled bit by bit with its inhabitants housed in special centres, like the thousands of people from the Calais camp.