Syria: 77 dead in the sinking of a migrant boat from Lebanon | The migrant crisis

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Syria: 77 dead in the sinking of a migrant boat from Lebanon | The migrant crisis

Some 150 people were on board the small boat that sank off Tartous on Thursday.

At least 77 migrants have drowned off the coast of Syria after their boat from Lebanon sank, the Syrian Minister of Health said on Friday speaking about the shipwreck, the deadliest in recent years from the Lebanon.

This country is increasingly becoming a departure point for illegal migrant boats since the outbreak in 2019 of a serious economic and financial crisis caused by decades of mismanagement and corruption from a ruling class largely unchanged for decades.

According to Syrian television, around 150 people, mostly Lebanese and Syrians, were on board the small boat that sank off the western Syrian port city of Tartous on Thursday.

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Seventy-seven people have died, Health Minister Hassan al-Ghabach told Syrian television from Al-Basel Hospital in Tartous, where 20 survivors are being treated.< /p>

Rescuers search for victims and survivors off the port city of Tartous.

Among those rescued were five Lebanese, the Lebanese minister had earlier told AFP Transport, Ali Hamie.

Palestinian refugees from the Nahr el-Bared camp in northern Lebanon were also among the victims, according to camp officials.

< p class="e-p">We are dealing with one of our biggest rescue operations, Syrian Transport Ministry official Sleiman Khalil told AFP.

We cover a large area that stretches along the entire Syrian coast, he added, saying that high waves were complicating rescue operations.

According to the Syrian Minister of Health, the Russian Navy participated in the rescue operations.

Relatives of victims came from Lebanon […] to identify the dead there, said Ahmed Ammar, a health official in Tartous.

Many Lebanese passengers on the boat come from poor regions in the north of the country, in particular the city of Tripoli, which is among the poorest in Lebanon. It has become a hub for illegal immigration, with most migrant boats departing from its shores.

Among the survivors, Wissam al-Tallawi, a father living in Tripoli and originally from Akkar, another poor region in northern Lebanon, was hospitalized, his brother Ahmad told AFP.

< p class="e-p">The bodies of his two daughters, aged five and nine, were flown back to Lebanon and buried on Friday, Ahmad said. Mr. Tallawi's wife and two sons are still missing.

They left two days ago, Ahmad revealed: my brother could not cover his daily expenses or his children's school fees.

In Arida, the northern border crossing between Lebanon and Syria, dozens of relatives of the victims were waiting for the bodies of their loved ones, according to an AFP photographer.

< p class="e-p">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 killed dozens of people 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 trying to reach Europe off the coast of Mugla province in southwestern Turkey. These migrants are said to have embarked from the Lebanese port of Tripoli.

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

At the Arida border post, an old man waits for news of his two nieces. If I had the opportunity to go to sea, even if it meant dying, I would go to no longer live an unworthy life in this country, he blurts out.

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