I wanted to use this blog post to discuss the migrant boat tragedy in Lebanon. On Wednesday morning, September 21st, more than 150 people were aboard a small boat fleeing crisis-ridden Lebanon in hopes of a better life in Italy. The passengers were mostly Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian, some of whom were both children and elderly.
Four hours after leaving Lebanon’s shores, the engine quit, and the boat capsized off the Syrian port of Tartous. Almost immediately approximately 100 people died; bodies were floating everywhere, while survivors clung to the overturned boat. Despite Lebanese authorities refusing to help and threatening to kill anyone who returned, 20 people were rescued, either swimming to the Syrian shore or picked up by Syrian and Russian boats. Currently, the survivors are either still recovering in Syrian hospitals or have been returned to Lebanon.
This deadly smuggling operation forces necessary attention to the underlying problems forcing both Lebanese citizens and other asylum seekers to attempt such a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. The most prevalent issue in Lebanon is the endemic and crippling poverty exasperated by the 2019 financial crisis.
As we have discussed in earlier blog posts, Lebanon is also the temporary home of a massive group of refugees from Syria and Palestine who the majority, live in cramped and thrown together camps across the country. Unfortunately, these refugees, specifically Palestinian refugees, are denied basic rights; without citizenship and no access to healthcare or education. Even if one tried to make a living in Lebanon, most are marginalized and disenfranchised, barred from owning property and from entering fruitful professions.
Sad to say, this situation is not unusual; the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that “approximately 3,500 individuals attempted to make the journey this year alone.”