Syrian authorities on Thursday found 34 bodies off the coast of the northern port city of Tartus and rescued more than a dozen migrants suspected to have headed for Europe to northern Lebanon earlier this week.
Amer Kubrusli, the director general of Syria’s ports, told Reuters that as of Thursday evening, authorities had found 34 bodies and rescued 14 people in Syrian waters.
The Syrian transport ministry, citing survivors, said the boat had left Lebanon’s northern Mineh region on Tuesday, carrying between 120 and 150 people on board.
Lebanese Transport Minister Ali Hami said he was informed by Syrian Transport Minister Zuhair Khujaim that 33 bodies had been recovered and 16 people had been rescued.
Lebanon has seen an increase in migration driven by one of the world’s deepest economic crises since the 1850s.
In addition to Lebanon, many of those on board the migrant boats themselves are already refugees from Syria and Palestine.
Dozens of people protested in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Thursday to alert authorities that they had lost contact with a migrant boat headed for Italy.
Reuters could not immediately confirm whether it was the same boat mentioned by Syrian officials.
The Syrian Ministry of Transport said in a statement that the director of the small island port of Arwad off the coast of Tartus informed them at 4:30 pm that a drowned man had been seen near an anchored ship.
The ministry sent a boat to recover the body.
Then he found the body of a child – and other bodies began to appear.
The ministry said most of the victims and survivors were found near Arvad.
The rescue operation was halted overnight due to weather conditions including high waves.
The Lebanese military said on Wednesday that it had rescued 55 people aboard a wrecked boat in the country’s waters, which had been brought back to shore.
In April, a migrant boat that had sailed off Tripoli sank during an interception by the Lebanese Navy off the country’s coast.
About 80 Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian expatriates were on board, of whom about 40 were rescued, seven were confirmed dead and about 30 are officially missing.
The number of people trying to leave or leave Lebanon by sea has nearly doubled from 2020 to 2021, the UN refugee agency told Reuters earlier this month.
This again increased by more than 70 percent in 2022 as compared to the same period last year.
The main reasons cited include “inability to survive in Lebanon due to deteriorating economic conditions” and “lack of access to basic services and limited job opportunities”.