MONTEVIDEO – A Syrian refugee assaulted Uruguayan government officials who told him they could not give him a visa to enter another country, authorities said.
The Syrian Families Resettlement Program team, accompanied by a representative of the UN Refugee Agency, traveled to the southwestern town of Juan Lacaze for a meeting “motivated by the head of the family’s anxiousness to obtain a visa to move and settle in another country,” the Uruguayan government said in a statement.
“The team explained to him again that the Uruguayan government is not able to grant entry visas for another country,” the statement said. After more than two hours of discussion, “the head of the household assaulted some members of the Program team.”
The incident was immediately reported to police.
“At a certain point, the situation spun out of control, there was an assault, the team left the house and filed a complaint,” Javier Miranda, secretary for Human Rights in the office of President Tabare Vazquez, told EFE.
“A very violent situation arose in which objects were thrown,” but no one was hurt, according to Miranda, citing the account he received from the team.
Media outlets identified the Syrian as Merhi Alshebli and said that he doused himself with gasoline during the meeting, though Miranda said the refugee only threatened to soak himself with fuel.
The administration of then-President Jose Mujica decided a year ago to accept five Syrian families – 42 people in all – who fled the civil war raging in their country since 2011.
At the beginning of September, the Syrians camped out for four days outside the government building in Montevideo demanding to leave Uruguay, complaining of the high cost of living and a lack of economic opportunities.