Authorities recover 100 bodies from boat that sank off Syria

Credit: CBSNews
Credit: CBSNews

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Syrian authorities have recovered 100 bodies from a Lebanese migrant boat that sank off Syria last week, state media reported about one of the deadliest recent shipwrecks in the eastern Mediterranean. The first bodies were found last Thursday and only 20 people were rescued out of as many as 150 passengers, officials said.

“The number of victims of the Lebanese boat has reached 100 people so far after another body was recovered from the sea,” Syria’s official news agency SANA on Monday quoted the head of Syrian ports Samer Kbrasli as saying.

All survivors have been discharged from hospital, SANA said.

Nearly three years of deep economic crisis have turned Lebanon into a launchpad for migrants, with its own citizens joining Syrian and Palestinian refugees desperate to flee rising poverty via dangerous sea voyages.

Ambulances wait on the Lebanese side of the Arida Border Crossing with Syria on September 23, 2022, for the arrival of the bodies of the shipwrecked Lebanese, who drowned when a boat they boarded sank off Syria’s coast. 

FATHI AL-MASRI/AFP via Getty Images

Those aboard the ship that sailed from Lebanon’s impoverished northern city of Tripoli were mostly Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians, and included children and elderly people, the United Nations said.

Lebanon hosts more than a million refugees from Syria’s civil war and has been mired in a financial and economic crisis branded by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern times.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi described the shipwreck as a “heart-wrenching tragedy.”

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent published images on its Facebook page showing volunteers carrying corpses covered in bags into an ambulance. Another video appeared to show volunteers pulling a lifeless body onto the beach.

“Remember that these people had families they cared about and dreams they wanted to achieve,” the European Council on Refugees and Exiles tweeted on Friday

Since 2020, Lebanon has seen a spike in the number of migrants attempting the perilous crossing in jam-packed boats to reach Europe.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said that 10 children appeared to be “among those who lost their lives”, adding that “years of political instability and economic crisis in Lebanon have pushed many children and families into poverty.”

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), there have been over 24,000 missing migrants reported in the Mediterranean region since 2014. The group says the Central Mediterranean is the “deadliest known migration route in the world,” with more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances recorded since 2014.