Middle East

Dozens of migrants killed as boat sinks off Syrian coast

Reuters

The bodies of 61 migrants have been found after the boat they were travelling in sank off Syria's coast, Lebanon's transport minister has said.

Twenty survivors are being treated in a hospital in the Syrian city of Tartus.

Officials said Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian nationals – including women and children – were believe to be among the 120-150 people who were on board when the boat sank on Thursday.

It is not clear what caused the accident. A rescue attempt is ongoing.

Officials added that the vessel had departed from from Minyeh, a city near the Lebanese port city of Tripoli.

The boat is believed to have been heading to Europe when it sank.

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Sitting on Syria's Mediterranean coast, Tartus, where survivors have been transported, is located about 30 miles (50 km) north of the Lebanese port city of Tripoli.

Lebanon hosts an estimated 1.5 million Syrian refugees, and almost 14,000 from other countries, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It hosts the largest number of refugees per capita in the world.

However, the country is facing a severe economic crisis, fuelled by Covid-19 and the 2020 Beirut port explosion, with more than 80% of the population struggling to afford food and medicine.

The situation is having a severe impact on the country's migrant population, many of whom are choosing to flee elsewhere, including to Europe.

Earlier this month, six people, including children, were killed when a boat carrying migrants from Lebanon to Europe sank off the coast of Turkey. The country's coast guard said 73 migrants from four boats had been rescued.

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