BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanese naval forces have rescued a boat carrying refugees from the country westward across the Mediterranean, but crashed on the coast, the Prime Minister’s Office said on Saturday.
It was the most recent cases of desperate people – especially Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians – going to European Union member Cyprus, and sometimes Turkey, seeking to escape the economic crisis in Lebanon. About 75% of the country’s population lives in poverty.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office said the migrants had left Lebanon illegally, and the navy was pulling a boat ashore. It did not say how many people moved into the boat but said some were children.
It added that there had been an investigation into the incident. Lebanese smugglers have created a business by selling their way to Europe for thousands of dollars per person.
On Friday, the Internal Security Forces entered the coast north of the town of Qalamoun, where it thwarted attempts to smuggle 82 men, women and children into Europe. Police say the passengers paid $ 5,000 per person, and arrested one of the smugglers.
The EU member of Cyprus is approximately 107 miles (172 km) north of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city.
Last year, several Lebanese citizens drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in an attempt to reach Europe. Hundreds have been rescued since the Lebanese financial crisis began in late 2019.
Thousands have lost their jobs during the crisis, which has cost more than 90% of its total revenue. The World Bank says the financial crisis in Lebanon is one of the worst in the world for 100 years.
Lebanon has a population of six million, including one million Syrian refugees.