Nearly 90 dead in migrant boat sinking off Syria

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

• Read also: Syria: 77 dead in the sinking of a migrant boat from Lebanon

« There are 89 dead, 14 people are recovering in Al-Basel Hospital, two of them in intensive care, » said Iskandar Ammar, an official at Al-Basel Hospital in the port city of Tartous, New York. western Syria, quoted by the Sana agency.

A previous report released earlier on Saturday reported 86 dead as searches continue to try to find possible survivors, with several people still missing since the sinking.

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

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

This is a Lebanese who « admitted to having organized » this journey from Lebanon and « which was to end in Italy by sea », before ending in tragedy.

Lebanon has increasingly become a jumping-off point for illegal migrant boats since the outbreak in 2019 of a severe economic and financial crisis caused by decades of mismanagement and corruption by a ruling class largely unchanged for decades. .

Ten children who drowned

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

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

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

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

Many Lebanese passengers on the boat come from poor regions in the north of the country, in particular from the city of Tripoli, which has become a hub for illegal immigration in the Mediterranean, especially for Syrian refugees, but also more and more Lebanese.

« The Lebanese population lives in disastrous conditions, but the situation is particularly serious for the poorest people, including refugees, » said UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa on Friday. , Adele Khodr in a statement.

« Quest for Dignity »

On Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, deplored “a new heartbreaking tragedy”, calling on the international community to come to the aid of “improving the conditions of people forced to flee their country, as well as those of the communities who 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. »

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

In April, the sinking of an overloaded migrant boat, chased by the Lebanese navy off Tripoli (north), had left dozens dead and provoked great anger in the country in crisis.

On September 13, the Turkish Coast Guard announced the death of six migrants, including two babies, and rescued 73 people who were trying to reach Europe, off the province of Mugla, in southwestern Turkey. These migrants would have embarked from the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

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


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