While there have been a number of tragedies over the years involving capsized migrant ships in the Mediterranean, typically coming from northern Africa or Syria amid regional wars, much less common are incidents involving boats from Lebanon.
But amid the last two years of economic collapse, a banking and political crisis, and runaway inflation – some Lebanese are now taking extreme risks. The latest example led to tragedy just off Syria’s coast on Thursday, according to Al Jazeera:
Dozens of people have died after a boat carrying migrants and refugees from Lebanon capsized off Syria’s coast, according to the Syrian and Lebanese governments. On Friday, the Lebanese transport minister said that 71 people had died in Thursday’s disaster.
An estimated 120 to 150 had been on board when the boat capsized, with Syrian authorities saying that 20 survivors were pulled out of the water off the coastal city of Tartus, where bodies of the deceased also began appearing. The survivors are being treated in local Syrian hospitals.
The boat had departed Lebanon’s northern Minyeh region on Tuesday, attempting to make the dangerous voyage to Europe as so many refugees during the prior decade of war in Syria had done.
Likely in addition to Lebanese migrants – many reportedly from the impoverished Akkar region – there were Syrians and Palestinians as well, many of them fleeing prior conflict. Families, including children, had been on board.
Relatives are said to be in shock as they await news of their loved ones who were on the boat amid ongoing rescue and recovery efforts. The economic crisis in Lebanon will likely result in more such dangerous attempts to enter Europe by sea:
Family members had explained to Khodr that the father had decided to try to go to Europe, despite the risks, because of the ongoing financial crisis in Lebanon, and the lack of opportunities there.
“We’ve spoken to people who’ve survived being in a boat that capsized and what they tell us is we’re going to keep doing it again and again, because there are no jobs,” Khodr added.
And further according to the AP, “Lebanon has a population of 6 million, including 1 million Syrian refugees, and has been in the grips of a severe economic meltdown since late 2019 that has pulled over three-quarters of the population into poverty.”
Russia’s military has been aiding in search and rescue efforts, particularly after bad weather made the mission more difficult, using military planes to locate bodies and any possible remaining survivors.