Death toll from migrant boat off Syrian coast up to 89
More bodies are found off the Syrian coast after a migrant boat that left Tripoli carrying Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian people to Italy sank in the Syrian territorial waters.
Eighty-nine dead bodies have been found so far after a boat carrying migrants from Lebanon sunk off the Syrian coast, Syrian state media said Saturday.
A smuggler suspected to be behind one of the most fatal recent shipwrecks in the eastern Mediterranean has been arrested, the Lebanese army announced.
He admitted to "organizing the recent smuggling operation from Lebanon to Italy by sea," the army said.
The accident, which is similar to many others driven by the economic depression and the hyper-inflation plunging the majority of the country's population into poverty, was described as a "heart-wrenching tragedy" by Filippo Grandi, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
While at least 14 individuals have been rescued and are receiving treatment at Al-Basel Hospital in Syria, several others are still missing at sea, and the search efforts continue. Two of those rescued are in intensive care, according to a hospital official quoted by SANA.
Yesterday, the number of those found dead was 61, according to the Lebanese Minister of Public Works and Transport Ali Hamieh.
Two days ago, the Syrian government reported finding lifeless bodies of 34 migrants, and the Syrian transport ministry published a statement saying that survivors suggested that the boat sailed from Miniyeh, a coastal city in northern Lebanon, 50 kilometers from Tartus.
A source in Tartus Governorate confirmed that special rescue teams have been mobilized, such as the Red Crescent, the Health Directorate, and the relevant authorities to follow up on the search operations for the victims of the Lebanese boat, after a number of those rescued informed that the number of individuals who left from Miniyeh beach, a coastal city in northern Lebanon, was more than 120 people, mostly from Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine.
Why have such accidents been happening in the recent years?
Lebanon hosts more than a million Syrian refugees and has since 2019 been enduring an economic depression that might rank among the top 10 worst economic crises in the world since the mid-nineteenth century, according to the World Bank.
The Lebanese banking system has completely collapsed, with the national currency depreciating more than 20 times against the USD.
Recent weeks have witnessed a series of incidents involving armed individuals with real or fake guns holding up banks to demand access to their frozen savings.
Capital control laws were never formalized by Beirut, but the country's judicial system has been too lenient on banks, not ruling on depositors' attempts to access savings via litigation against banks. This has led depositors to try accessing their savings in various ways.
Lebanon has become a launchpad for illegal migration, with Lebanese joining refugees from Syria and Palestine clamoring to leave, promised better living conditions elsewhere.
The Italian Island of Lampedusa is one of the destinations migrants, mostly from West Asia and North Africa, have been trying to reach. Since the beginning of the year, more than 34,000 migrants have already arrived in Italy by sea, in contrast with 25,500 during the same period last year. In total, over 67,000 people arrived in the Apennines via the Mediterranean last year, according to the Italian Interior Ministry.