Medics wait on the pier as soldiers search for survivors off the coast of the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on 24 April 2022, after an overloaded migrant boat capsized off north Lebanon. (Photo credit: AFP)
The Lebanese Army arrested 64 migrants on 7 June who were attempting to set sail from northern Lebanon to Europe.
According to a statement made by the army via Twitter, the 64 comprised Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians, and were arrested for their attempt to leave the country illegally. One of them, a pregnant woman, was transferred to a hospital.
أوقفت وحدة من الجيش على الشاطئ بين منطقتي القليعات والشيخ زناد-الشمال، ٦٤ شخصًا من الجنسيات اللبنانية والسورية والفلسطينية أثناء محاولتهم مغادرة البلاد عبر البحر بطريقة غير شرعية، ومن بينهم امرأة حامل مصابة بنزيف تم نقلها إلى إحدى مستشفيات المنطقة للمعالجةhttps://t.co/vFh1rCFTj0
— الجيش اللبناني (@LebarmyOfficial) June 7, 2022
The migrants were arrested near the Sheikh Znad area, a few kilometers from Tripoli, and were taken into custody just as their boat was about to set sail.
This latest incident comes less than two months after a boat carrying 60 migrants capsized off the coast of Tripoli after an army vessel rammed into the dinghy, leaving at least seven dead and dozens missing.
Despite contradictory reports by the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), survivors of the incident placed the blame for the tragedy on the army, accusing its troops of deliberately hitting the overcrowded boat to stop it from reaching Cyprus.
According to survivors, an army vessel attempted to block the path of the migrant boat, circling around them before ramming into the boat twice and causing it to split in two.
A number of survivors also said that the LAF vessel was aware there were at least 25 children on board and that soldiers threatening to “bury” the migrants.
The army, who were tasked with investigating the incident, were unable to retrieve the boat or the bodies, citing a lack of equipment and expertise, while efforts to seek international assistance failed.
The fate of most of the missing migrants remains unknown, and search operations have been halted.
According to refugee agency UNRWA, between January and November 2021 at least 1,570 migrants made the attempt to leave Lebanon illegally by sea to reach Cyprus, located 175 kilometers away.
Last August, LAF commander General Joseph Aoun travelled to Cyprus where he pledged to help the EU state to combat illegal immigration.
Lebanon has been suffering from economic and social pressures caused by the presence of refugees on its territory and is seeking to resolve this issue.
“Lebanon can no longer bear this burden on its own, without assistance,” Lebanese Labor Minister Mustafa Bayram said on 30 April, calling on the UN to share the responsibility.