Lebanese authorities work to rescue a ship carrying migrants from Lebanon off the coast of Tartus, Syria, on the 22nd (local time) after it capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. AFP Yonhap News
A ship carrying migrants from Lebanon capsized off the Syrian coast, killing at least 61 people.
According to foreign media such as the BBC on the 23rd (local time), Lebanon’s transport minister said that 61 bodies have been recovered from the abalone accident that occurred the day before in the Mediterranean Sea. The 20 rescued people are being treated at a hospital in Taruts, a coastal city close to the sinking site. It is not known exactly how many people were on the ship, but Syrian state media said there were between 120 and 150 people on board, citing survivors, of various nationalities. The ship is believed to have departed from the Lebanese coastal city of Minie a few days ago and was heading for Europe.
Syrian authorities are still conducting a search, but it is said that rescue operations are being hampered by strong winds and strong waves.
The capsize was the worst accident for migrants fleeing Lebanon to Europe, the Associated Press reported. Lebanon has been suffering from social unrest due to severe economic hardship since 2019. In addition, the explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a surge in prices due to the war in Ukraine added to the economic crisis. Lebanon’s current population is about 6 million, including 1 million Syrian refugees, of which three-quarters are in severe poverty.
For this reason, over the past few months, Lebanon has seen a series of attempts by people to migrate to Europe in search of a better life economically. In April, a ship carrying Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian nationals sank about 5km from the port of Tripoli in northwestern Lebanon in a clash with the Lebanese navy while en route to Italy, killing dozens of people.
The Mediterranean is a major conduit for migrants from the Middle East, Asia and North Africa seeking to escape war or smuggle into Europe in search of a better life. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), between January and July of this year, approximately 67,500 migrants migrated to Europe via the Mediterranean and northwest African waters, of which 1,326 were counted dead or missing.