Survivors Accuse Lebanese Navy of Ramming Migrant Vessel
Survivors from a sunken migrant boat have accused the Lebanese Navy of ramming their vessel while they were trying to escape the country, resulting in an unknown number of fatalities.
The migrants, mostly Syrian and Lebanese men, were attempting to escape Tripoli and head for European shores. With the collapse of the Lebanese economy, a growing number of residents are looking for a way out, including the dangerous option of a seaborne crossing to Cyprus.
The boat was reportedly carrying about 60 people. UN refugee agency UNHCR reported Sunday that 45 people were rescued after the sinking, and six bodies were recovered, including a two-month-old infant; survivors say that at least two people more are missing.
For their part, the Lebanese Navy claimed that the boat was carrying 10-15 times as many people as it was rated to transport, and none of the occupants were wearing life vests. The Lebanese Navy said that the migrant boat's captain caused the collision by swerving to avoid a naval vessel interdiction, and that the boat was overwhelmed by high wave action.
"This tragic event underscores the shockingly high risks that many people are resorting to out of desperation. Shipwrecks, tragic deaths and further suffering could be avoided, but it is crucial that continuous support is mobilized to help Lebanon as living conditions," said UN refugee agency UNHCR in a statement.
According to the UN, about 1,300 refugees attempted to make the crossing to Cyprus in 2020, and at least four boats have tried to cross so far this year. The majority of these migrant vessels are intercepted and returned to Lebanon.