At least 73 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean when their boat sank off the coast of Tartus on Thursday, after leaving Lebanon for Europe, according to the Syrian Health Ministry.
Lebanese transport minister Ali Hamiye told Reuters that 20 survivors had been rescued and were receiving treatment in Syrian hospitals.
There were around 150 migrants on board, mostly Lebanese and Syrian nationals.
Lebanon is home to some 1.5 million Syrians who fled the civil war and around 14,000 refugees of other nationalities, mostly Palestinians, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures. About 90 per cent of Syrian refugees in the country live in extreme poverty.
Due to Lebanon’s deepening economic crisis over the last three years, more than 80 per cent of the country’s residents do not have access to basic goods, including food, water, health care, or education. This has increased the rate of emigration from Lebanon to Europe.
According to UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Lebanon has been witnessing an increase in departures by sea since 2020, with boats attempting dangerous journeys. “Lebanon’s economic crisis has triggered one of the largest waves of migration in the country’s history,” IOM Lebanon chief Mathieu Luciano said.
The number of people who have left or tried to leave Lebanon by sea rose by more than 70 per cent in 2022 compared to last year.