Lebanese navy rescued ship in distress carrying migrants

Beirut (AP)-The Lebanese Prime Minister’s Office said on Saturday that the Lebanese Navy rescued a ship carrying migrants that left the country to cross the Mediterranean Sea west, but anchored off the coast.

This is the latest case of desperate people — mainly Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians — heading towards EU member Cyprus, and sometimes even Turkey, trying to escape Lebanon’s deteriorating economic collapse. About 75% of the country’s population now lives in poverty.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s office stated that these migrants left Lebanon illegally and the navy is towing the ship ashore. It did not say how many immigrants were on board, but that some were children.

It added that the incident will be investigated. Smugglers in Lebanon sell access to Europe for thousands of dollars per person.

On Friday, domestic security forces raided a beach resort in the northern town of Qalamoun, where they thwarted an attempt to smuggle 82 men, women and children to Europe. The police said the passengers paid US$5,000 each and detained one of the smugglers.

Cyprus, a member of the European Union, is approximately 107 miles (172 kilometers) from the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city.

Last year, several Lebanese citizens drowned in the Mediterranean while trying to travel to Europe. Hundreds of people have been rescued since Lebanon’s economic crisis began at the end of 2019.

Tens of thousands of people were unemployed in this crisis, and the local currency depreciated by more than 90%. According to the World Bank, Lebanon’s economic crisis is one of the most serious economic crises in the world in more than a century.

There are 6 million people in Lebanon, including 1 million Syrian refugees.

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