Lebanese army prevents people smugglers attempting to reach Europe by sea

Lebanese army prevents people smugglers attempting to reach Europe by sea
2 min read
11 May, 2021
The economic crisis in Lebanon has pushed many refugees to attempt dangerous sea crossings to European Union member Cyprus and then other countries in recent months.
Syrian refugees arrive to Lesbos Island, Greece, by boat [Anadolu Agency/Getty]

The Lebanese army foiled an attempt on Sunday to smuggle dozens of Syrians out of Lebanon via sea, in a statement released Monday.

"On May 9, a naval force unit stopped a boat it monitored on its radar 10 nautical miles off the coast of Tripoli, as it attempted to smuggle 60 people (59 of whom are Syrians and one Lebanese) via Lebanese waters," the statement read.

It added that the refugees were handed over to relevant authorities for investigation.

People smuggling - particularly refugees - in and out of Lebanon has been a recurring event since the Syria war started a decade ago. 

On Saturday, Lebanese police said they foiled another attempt to smuggle 51 Syrians to neighbouring Cyprus, weeks after the army stopped a similar operation.

This came weeks after the army said it had stopped 69 Syrians in the northern region of Akkar and arrested the smuggler who was also planning to take them to Cyprus.

Lebanon, home to more than six million people including over a million and a half Syrian and Palestinian refugees, is just 160 kilometres (100 miles) from the island country. 

The economic crisis in Lebanon has pushed many to attempt illicit sea crossings to the European Union member and then other countries such as Turkey in recent months.

In March, Europe's top human rights body urged Cyprus to investigate allegations of ill-treatment of migrants arriving by boat from Lebanon last September. 

The Council of Europe's human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatovic cited reports that "boats carrying migrants, including persons who may be in need of international protection, have been prevented from disembarking in Cyprus, and summarily returned, sometimes violently."

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