More than 70 dead after boat carrying migrants sinks off Syria | Migration News

At least 61 people have died after a boat carrying migrants and refugees capsized off the Syrian coast, the Lebanese government said.

Dozens of people have died after a boat carrying migrants and refugees from Lebanon capsized off the coast of Syria, according to the Syrian and Lebanese governments.

On Friday, the Lebanese transport minister said 71 people were killed in Thursday’s disaster.

The Syrian government had previously said 20 survivors were being treated at the Basel hospital in Tartous.

The Syrian transport ministry quoted survivors as saying the boat departed Tuesday from Lebanon’s northern Minyeh region with between 120 and 150 people on board.

Samer Qubrusli, Syria’s director-general of ports, said searches were underway on Friday. He had previously said that rough seas and high winds had made the rescue operation difficult.

The incident is one of the deadliest since a growing number of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians have attempted to flee crisis-stricken Lebanon by sea to Europe.

Some of those who died on the boat came from Akkar, an impoverished region in Lebanon’s far north.

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Zeina Khodr of Al Jazeera visited the home of a family whose relatives were on board as people gathered to pay their respects.

The family had buried two young girls Friday morning and were still waiting for news about the fate of the girls’ two brothers and their mother. The father is in hospital across the border in Syria.

“There is a lot of sadness here, people are in shock,” Khodr said. “They don’t understand why they don’t have a lot more information.”

Relatives had explained to Khodr that the father had decided to try to go to Europe, despite the risks, because of the ongoing financial crisis in Lebanon and the lack of opportunities there.

“We’ve talked to people who survived in a boat that capsized and what they’re telling us is that we’re going to keep doing it over and over because there are no jobs,” Khodr added.

In Lebanon alone, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and the Lebanese pound has fallen more than 90 percent of its value, wiping out the purchasing power of thousands of families now living in extreme poverty.

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Tartous Governor Abdulhalim Khalil reportedly visited the survivors in the hospital.

It was not immediately clear how many people were on board and where exactly they were going, but the Coast Guard is still searching for bodies.

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According to state media, the boat was carrying people of different nationalities.

Thousands of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians have left Lebanon on boats in recent months in search of better opportunities in Europe.

Lebanon has a population of six million, including one million Syrian refugees, and since late 2019 has been gripped by a severe economic collapse that has driven more than three-quarters of the population into poverty.

In April, a boat carrying dozens of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians attempting to migrate to Italy by sea crashed more than 5 km from the port of Tripoli after a clash with the Lebanese navy. Dozens of people were killed in the incident.

Migrants have left the country via the northern Lebanese coast.

On Thursday, Lebanese officials said naval forces rescued a boat carrying 55 migrants and refugees after it experienced technical problems 11 km (6 nautical miles) off the coast of the northern region of Akkar. It said the people who were rescued were two pregnant women and two children.

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