Lebanese troops rescue 27 migrants from sinking boat

Mediterranean crossings have increased since Lebanon's economic meltdown began in 2019

The Lebanese army and civil defence rescued 27 migrants off the Lebanese coast on Saturday. AP
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Lebanon's army and civil defence service on Saturday rescued 27 migrants from a sinking boat off the country's northern coast, the military said.

The army did not say where the people were heading or specify their nationalities.

Over the past year, thousands of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians have taken the dangerous trip from Lebanon across the Mediterranean to seek a better life in Europe.

Such migration efforts intensified after Lebanon's economic meltdown began in October 2019.

Lebanon has hosted refugees for years.

It has about 805,000 UN-registered Syrian refugees, but officials estimate the actual number to be between 1.5 million and two million.

Lebanon is also home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, many living in 12 camps around the country.

In recent months, thousands of Syrian citizens fleeing worsening economic conditions in their war-torn country arrived in Lebanon through illegal crossing points seeking better opportunities.

Lebanese officials have warned that the flow of Syrian refugees could create “harsh imbalances” negatively affecting the country's delicate demographic structure.

Last month, Lebanese troops detained dozens of Lebanese and Syrian traffickers in the country’s north while they were preparing to send migrants on boats to Europe across the Mediterranean.

A boat carrying migrants from Lebanon capsized off Syria’s coast in September last year, leaving at least 94 people dead, one of the deadliest incidents involving migrants, and was followed by a wave of detentions of suspected smugglers.

In neighbouring Syria on Saturday, a navy patrol stopped a boat carrying migrants off the coast of Latakia, according to the pro-government Sham FM radio station.

It gave no further details but such incidents are rare in Syria, where a 12-year conflict has killed half a million people and left large parts of the country in ruins.

Updated: September 23, 2023, 12:20 PM