(Photo credit: Bilal Hussein/AP Photo)
At least 102 bodies have been recovered from the migrant boat that capsized off the Syrian port of Tartous on 22 September, with at least 40 others still missing.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), 20 migrants were rescued by the Syrian authorities.
Among the dead are 24 children and 31 women.
The overcrowded boat was reportedly carrying a total of 150 people – a mix of Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians – who set off from Lebanon’s northern city of Tripoli last Wednesday with the hope of reaching Italy to find work.
In the hours after their departure, the boat’s engine stopped and the smugglers back on the coast threatened to shoot the migrants if they returned, according to the account of Ibrahim Mansour, one of the survivors.
Survivors say they tried to call Lebanon’s emergency phone number but no help ever arrived.
“I tried to help children and another man; I tried to keep their spirits alive, but I couldn’t. This is hurting me, especially because of the child who was holding onto me before I lost him. They told me he died,” Mansour told Al Jazeera from his hospital bed.
This disaster is the latest to highlight the desperate situation of Lebanese citizens who have become the victims of a manufactured economic collapse at the hands of the country’s financial elite.
As despair grows in the face of crushing inflation and frozen bank accounts, ever more people are forced to attempt the perilous voyage across the Mediterranean and into Europe.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), approximately 3,500 people in Lebanon attempted to make the journey this year alone; however, Lebanese officials say this is a conservative figure.
“Everyone knows they may die but they say, ‘Maybe I may get somewhere, maybe there is hope,’” said Rawane El Maneh, a relative of one of the migrant boat’s victims. “They went … not to die, but to renew their lives. Now they are in a new life. I hope it’s much better than this one here.”
In recent years, Lebanese authorities have tightened migration policy, intercepting boats that leave Lebanon for Cyprus. Earlier this year, survivors from another migrant boat disaster blamed the Lebanese navy for intentionally sinking their dinghy.