Nearly 90 dead when migrant boat sinks off Syrian coast

Nearly 90 dead when migrant boat sinks off Syrian coast

At least 89 bodies have been discovered off the Syrian coast since the shipwreck of a boat carrying migrants from Lebanon on Thursday, the official Syrian news agency SANA said on Saturday.

“There are 89 dead, 14 people are recovering in Al-Basel Hospital, two of them in intensive care,” Iskandar Ammar, an official at Al-Basel Hospital in the western Syrian port city of Tartous, is quoted as saying by the Sana agency.

A previous report released on Saturday said 86 people had died as the search continues to try to find possible survivors, with several people remaining missing since the sinking.

According to the Syrian authorities, there were around 150 people, mainly Lebanese, as well as Syrian and Palestinian refugees, on board the small boat that sank off Tartus.

The Lebanese Army has reported the arrest of a suspected smuggler involved in this tragedy.

This is a Lebanese man who “admitted organizing this trip from Lebanon” “which was to end up in Italy by sea” before ending in tragedy.

Lebanon has increasingly become a launching point for illegal migrant boats since the onset of a severe economic and financial crisis in 2019, caused by decades of mismanagement and corruption by a ruling class that has been largely unchanged for decades.

– Ten children drowned –

Ten children were among the shipwrecked, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Saturday.

In Lebanon, several families on Saturday prepared to begin mourning for their loved ones after their bodies were delivered at the Arida border post with neighboring Syria.

Funerals are planned for Saturday, other families have already buried their loved ones on Friday.

It is the deadliest shipwreck in recent years between Syria, devastated by more than 11 years of conflict, and Lebanon, which is experiencing one of the world’s worst economic crises since 1850, according to the World Bank.

Many Lebanese passengers on the boat come from poor regions in the north of the country, particularly from the city of Tripoli, which has become a hub for illegal immigration in the Mediterranean, mostly for Syrian refugees but also a growing number of Lebanese.

“The Lebanese people live in dire conditions, but the situation is particularly serious for the poorest people, including refugees,” UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa Adele Khodr said in a statement on Friday.

– “Search for Dignity” –

On Friday, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi lamented “a new heartbreaking tragedy” and called on the international community to come to the rescue to “improve the conditions of people who are being forced to flee their countries, as well as those of the communities that welcome them.

“Those who board these makeshift boats (…) risk their lives in search of dignity,” said Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the UN agency responsible for aid to Palestinian refugees (Unrwa). “We must do more to (…) help the Lebanese and other people in the region to overcome the feeling of despair.”

After Lebanon’s economic collapse, Syrian and Palestinian refugees and Lebanese attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea in makeshift boats to reach European countries, including the island of Cyprus, 175 kilometers from the Lebanese coast.

In April, the sinking of an overloaded migrant boat being pursued by the Lebanese Navy off Tripoli (north) killed dozens and provoked great anger in the crisis-ridden country.

On September 13, the Turkish Coast Guard reported the deaths of six migrants, including two babies, and rescued 73 people trying to reach Europe off Mugla province in south-west Turkey. These migrants would have been embarked from the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

According to the United Nations, at least 38 boats carrying more than 1,500 people left Lebanon or attempted to leave Lebanon illegally by sea between January and November 2021.


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