The number of victims of the “death boat” that set off from Lebanon and sank Thursday off the Syrian coast has risen to 89, amid international shock and a Lebanese security move to arrest those involved in smuggling illegal immigrants across the sea towards Europe.
Yesterday, the Lebanese army announced the arrest of a person suspected of being involved in smuggling illegal immigrants on a boat that sank off the Syrian coast.
The Army Command said in a statement issued by the Directorate of Orientation that the Intelligence Directorate arrested a Lebanese man last Wednesday, on suspicion of his involvement in smuggling illegal immigrants across the sea. She added that “the result of the investigation proved his involvement in running a network that is active in smuggling illegal immigrants across the sea, starting from the Lebanese coast extending from Arida (north) to Minieh (south).”
The army command said that the arrested “confessed to preparing for the last smuggling operation from Lebanon to Italy by sea last Wednesday, which resulted in the sinking of the boat off the Syrian coast on Thursday,” pointing out that “the investigation continues with the arrestee and the network is following up to arrest its members.”
Since the announcement on Thursday afternoon that the boat sank off the shores of Tartus, whose passengers are estimated to have ranged between 100 and 150 people, including Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian refugees, the death toll has risen successively, with new bodies being recovered, while only 20 people have been rescued. It is not yet clear the circumstances of the sinking of the boat, which was headed to Italy.
The official Syrian News Agency (SANA) quoted Iskandar Ammar, director of the General Authority at Al-Basel Hospital, to which the victims were transferred in Tartous, as saying that “in an indefinite toll, the number of victims has reached 89,” while 6 survivors were released from the hospital, and 14 people are still there. They are receiving treatment, including two in intensive care.
The Syrian official media reported that the increase in the number resulted from the exhumation of more victims. Searches for missing persons are still continuing. Most of the victims were found off the island of Arwad and the shores of Tartus.
Families in Lebanon mourned their victims on Friday, and Lebanese and Palestinian families received the bodies of their relatives through the Arida border crossing, and they were buried yesterday (Saturday).
The Lebanese and Syrian authorities are coordinating the transfer of victims and survivors. And the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health announced in a statement, that “a phone call took place between Minister Firas Al-Abyad and his Syrian counterpart, Dr. Hassan Muhammad Al-Ghabash, to discuss how to transfer the wounded survivors of the tragedy of the boat that sank off Tartous, to Lebanon, where the date will be set based on the reports. Medical care related to their health, in addition to the follow-up of the transfer of the bodies of the victims.
The ministry pointed out that “the government hospitals of Tripoli and Aleppo and other private hospitals in the north are preparing to receive the bodies and follow up the treatment of the wounded Lebanese at the expense of the Ministry of Public Health.” Lebanon.
The incident sparked international shock. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) announced that ten children were killed in the accident, according to initial reports. And she considered in a statement, “As is the case in many areas in the region, people in Lebanon live in harsh conditions that affect everyone, but are especially harsh for the weakest.”
“This is yet another painful tragedy,” the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said in a statement, calling on the international community to provide full assistance to “improve conditions for forcibly displaced people and host communities in the Middle East.” “Many are pushing them to the edge of the abyss,” he added in a joint statement with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.
“People seeking safety should not find themselves forced to undertake dangerous and deadly migration journeys,” said IOM Director-General Antonio Vitorino.
UNRWA Commissioner-General Philip Lazzarini said, “No one gets on the boats of death easily. People are making these dangerous decisions, risking their lives in search of a life of dignity.” He added, “We must do more (…) to address the sense of despair in Lebanon and the region.”