At least 86 people were killed when a boat carrying migrants from Lebanon sank off Syria this week, the country’s health minister said Friday, amid fears the death toll could climb even higher.
Suffering from the grip of a major financial crisis, Lebanon has has become a launchpad for migration, with its own citizens joining Syrian and Palestinian refugees clamouring to leave the country.
Syrian authorities began finding bodies off the coast of Tartus on Thursday afternoon. The country’s transport ministry has quoted survivors as saying the boat left Lebanon’s northern Minyeh region on Tuesday bound for Europe with between 120 and 150 people onboard.
Reuters reported that the family of Mustafa Misto, a Lebanese man who was on the boat with his wife and three young children, were accepting condolences at their apartment in the impoverished Bab Al-Ramel neighbourhood of the northern city of Tripoli.
“We have no one but God,” an elderly relative cried as mourners paid their respects.
Lebanon,— with a population of 6 million, including 1 million Syrian refugees, has been in the grips of a severe economic meltdown since late 2019 that has pulled over three-quarters of the population into poverty.
The number of people who have left or tried to leave Lebanon by sea nearly doubled between 2020 and 2021, the UN refugee agency told Reuters earlier this month. It rose again by more than 70% in 2022.
Dozens of people died in April in the sinking of an overcrowded migrant boat pursued by the Lebanese navy off the coast of Tripoli, sparking anger in the country.
(If you have a story in and around Mumbai, you have our ears, be a citizen journalist and send us your story here. )