The disaster of boats with migrants from Lebanon off the coast of Syria, which killed dozens of people, shows the desperation of the people of a country mired in a dramatic economic crisis. – Everyone knows that they can die, but they say: maybe I will get somewhere, maybe there is hope – says a cousin of one of the victims. The tragedy highlights the scale of poverty and growing inequality in Lebanon. Three years after the dramatic economic collapse of the country, more and more people are forced to seek a better life outside their homeland. Many choose the deadly route across the sea to Europe.
On Thursday off the coast Syria there was a crash of a boat carrying migrants from Lebanon. At least 94 people have drowned, Reuters reported Saturday on Syrian state television. Rescued passengers said the boat departed from the city of Miniyeh in northern Lebanon. There were 120 to 150 people on board, the Syrian Ministry of Transport reported. Most of the migrants were of Lebanese and Syrian nationality, some of the victims came from the vast Palestinian refugee camp in Nahr al-Bared.
This is the most tragic disaster of its kind in history in Lebanon, notes Reuters. The country is experiencing a surge in migration fueled by one of the world’s deepest economic crises. The number of people who left or tried to leave Lebanon by sea almost doubled in 2021 compared to the previous year, and in 2022 it increased by another 70 percent, the agency reported at the beginning of September The United Nations Refugee Affairs (UNHCR).
“They got into these boats not to die, but to fight for a better life”
A Lebanese named Misto was among the victims of the Thursday disaster. Before deciding to go to Europe by boat, the man ran into debt. To feed his family, he sold his car and his mother’s gold. Despite this, he still lacked money for basic products, such as cheese for children’s sandwiches, the man’s relatives and neighbors told Reuters.
“Everyone knows they can die, but they say: maybe I will get somewhere, maybe there is hope,” says 24-year-old Rowan El Maneh, Misto’s cousin. – They got into these boats not to die, but to fight for a better life. And they got it, in another world, I hope it is much better than here – said the woman.
Boats filled with migrants that depart on a regular basis from Lebanon’s shores highlight the scale of poverty in the country, and in Tripoli in particular. Three years after the dramatic economic collapse, more and more Lebanese are forced to flee their homeland. Many choose the deadly route across the sea to Europe.
The growing gulf between the poor and the rich
Saturday’s catastrophe also highlighted the huge inequalities that are particularly visible in the north of the country. Many very wealthy politicians live in Tripoli, although most residents barely make ends meet. The region remains severely neglected and struggles with high levels of poverty despite the impressive wealth of local politicians.
The funeral of some of the victims took place in the poor district of Bab al-Ramel in Tripoli. Many of their relatives directed their anger at local politicians, including the country’s prime minister Nadżib Mikati, a billionaire.
– We live in a country where politicians only talk, suck money and completely ignore people’s needs – complained one of the mourners.
Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city with a population of around half a million, was among the poorest in the country before Lebanon plunged into the financial crisis that resulted from decades of corruption and mismanagement.
The Tripoli authorities have not made any major development investments since the 1975-90 Civil War, notes Mohanad Hage Ali, an expert from Beirut-based Carnegie Middle East Center, in an interview with Reuters. “It shows in a lens the growing inequalities and disproportions in the standard of living in Lebanon,” he added.
The people of Tripoli have long since lost faith in politicians and hope to improve their situation. These sentiments had an impact on the turnout in the parliamentary elections in May. Only three out of ten residents took part in them, reports Reuters.
The north of Lebanon also remains one of the country’s most troubled regions since the end of the civil war. Tripoli and its environs provided fertile ground for jihadists to recruit young, frustrated Sunni radicals.
Recently, the security situation in the city has worsened due to the economic downturn and increasing poverty. Lebanon’s Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi recently announced a new plan to curb the surge in violence and crime in Tripoli.
According to the United Nations, poverty is a problem that affects 80 percent of Lebanon’s population, i.e. about 6.5 million people, according to the United Nations. The government has done little to deal with the crisis. Last week, several other boats attempted to cross from Lebanon to Europe. 477 passengers from two ships were rescued by the Cypriot services.
Among the victims of the Thursday disaster was a woman with four children. The family was from the Akkar district in the north of Lebanon. The father of the family was one of the few to survive, a local government official told Reuters. As he confessed, the crisis Lebanon is currently facing is worse than a civil war.
– I don’t know what is wrong with these politicians. They will have to answer for it – he added.
Main photo source: PAP / EPA / STR