Over 70 dead and scores missing after boat full of migrants sinks off Syrian coast

Most of the refugees were Lebanese or Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The boat had left the Miniyeh region a few days before and was headed for Europe

September 23, 2022 by Peoples Dispatch
Refugee deaths in Mediterranean Sea
(Photo: Al Mayadeen)

Over 70 people have died after a boat carrying Lebanese and Syrian migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Syrian coast on Thursday, September 22. Dozens of people are still missing. According to an Al Mayadeen report, Syrian government officials claimed that between 120 and 150 people were on the boat. 

According to the Syrian health ministry, at least 20 people have been rescued so far and are being treated in a hospital in the Syrian city of Tartus. The reports claim that most of the migrants were Lebanese or Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The boat had left northern Lebanon’s Miniyeh region a few days earlier and was headed for Europe.  

The number of Lebanese and Syrians trying to cross the sea to reach Europe has increased recently due to the economic crisis in Lebanon. There are nearly a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon who are unable to go back home due to persistent conflict. 

Lebanon, a country of around six million people including the Syrian refugees, has been facing an unprecedented economic crisis for some years now. According to the UN, nearly 80% of the country’s population today is facing multidimensional poverty with successive governments failing to deal with the economic issues. 

The currency has lost over 90% of its value and restrictions on the withdrawal of dollars from banks have affected the purchasing power of the majority of the population. The rise in prices of essential commodities has added to the hardships.   

Several Lebanese and Syrian refugees try to migrate to Europe to escape poverty and in search of better job prospects. Given the heavy restrictions on immigration placed by EU countries, some migrants attempt to evade law enforcement by traveling through dangerous routes such as the Mediterranean Sea in dilapidated and overcrowded boats. Officials of EU countries often prevent these boats from entering their waters. There have been numerous cases when migrants have been left stranded on the sea for weeks. Many have drowned or died of starvation, suffocation, and disease.   

According to the UN refugee agency, every year, hundreds of Lebanese and Syrians attempt to migrate to Europe through dangerous routes despite reports of such mishaps.    

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over 24,000 people have either died or gone missing while trying to migrate to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea since 2014.  

In April, over a dozen people died in a similar accident when a boat capsized near Tripoli after it was confronted by the Lebanese navy. Most of the dead were identified to be citizens of Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine.  

Earlier this month, at least two children died on an overcrowded boat which was stranded in the Mediterranean Sea near the Malta coast for over 10 days after European authorities delayed rescue operations despite repeated distress calls.