More than 70 migrants killed as boat sinks off the coast of Lebanon

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More than 70 migrants were killed Friday when a boat going from Lebanon to Italy sank. Photo by Andy Rain/EPA-EFE.

Sept. 23 (UPI) — At least 77 migrants aboard a boat sailing from Lebanon have died after the ship sank off the coast of Syria, officials said Friday.

Brig. Gen. Samer Kubrusli, Syria’s director general of ports, told the Syria’s state news agency that the boat left from the coastal city of Miniyeh, Lebanon, on Tuesday, and was sailing to Italy. Twenty survivors are being treated at a hospital.

Syria’s transport ministry said that the boat left with between 120 and 150 people of different nationalities onboard.

A spokesperson for the International Organization for Migration told The Guardian that it was working to verify what had happened, and that migrants and refugees “should not feel compelled to resort to such perilous and deadly journeys in search of safety or a better life.”

The number of people who have left or tried to leave Lebanon by sea nearly doubled between 2020 and 2021, The Guardian reported.

The accident is one of the worst refugee boating accidents in recent years, although they are not uncommon. In April, dozens of people died when a boat sank after leaving Tripoli en route to Europe. Many of the refugees pay smugglers just for an opportunity to make it to Europe.

Two brothers with ties to smugglers operating in Lebanon said in an interview with the Washington Post on Friday that would-be migrants were being charged increasingly exorbitant sums — as much as $9,000 per person — to board the boats headed to Europe. The men spoke on the condition of anonymity because smuggling is illegal.

“They find people who have been driven to such a point of desperation that they embrace the possibility of death and sell all they have to pay for their kids to reach European shores,” one of the brothers said.

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