Illegal migration from northern Lebanon to European shores on the rise

Illegal migration is on the rise from northern Lebanon to European shores.

The sinking of a migrant boat off the impoverished northern city of Tripoli on April 23 has not deterred people from embarking on the dangerous journey.

Around 40 people were killed in the tragedy, the latest to hit Lebanon grappling with unprecedented economic and life crises.

Army and navy units entered the port of al-Abdeh-Akkar in northern Lebanon on Friday, seizing a boat believed to have been prepared to illegally transport migrants.

Two days ago, the army said it arrested a citizen from the al-Beddawi area for planning a maritime operation of illegal migrants.

He said he seized a Kalashnikov rifle, 4,000 liters of diesel fuel, 100 life jackets, 46 buoys and two air pumps in his possession.

Activist Omar Ibrahim said the sinking of the boat in April did not deter illegal migration.

Two smuggling attempts were foiled just two days ago, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“We no longer know the departure of the Lebanese boats until they reach their destination in Europe,” he said.

As for the Syrian migrants, he revealed that “no one knows their number or the number of boats that take them away from northern Lebanon. Undoubtedly, the numbers are high.

Moreover, he said that about a week ago, a boat carrying about 50 Palestinians left al-Beddawi camp. “We only learned of the departure after the migrants posted photos of themselves after reaching the Italian shores,” he added.

“Either the relevant security agencies are struggling to curb illegal migration, or they have no intention of doing so,” he noted.

Lebanon could follow Turkey’s approach by extorting Europe to force it to provide funds for refugees and ease the burden it places on the Lebanese state, Ibrahim said.

Politician Dr Khaldoun al-Sharif said the severe economic and financial crisis is pushing people to undertake the perilous sea journey out of Lebanon, which could suffer the worst economic crisis the world has seen since World War II.

Unemployment has reached 50% and drug addiction 13%, he noted. Add to that a recent report that found the Lebanese people to be the most angry people in the world.

People are desperate and officials continue their petty political squabbles as if nothing has changed, he lamented.

Amid Dandachi, who lost his three children in the April sinking, said illegal migration would continue despite the tragedy.

“The conditions we face in Tripoli and Akkar, from poverty to the dollarization of services while salaries remain in Lebanese pounds, will inevitably force people to sea,” he stressed.

Migration will continue to increase as long as the state continues to neglect our region, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“We are bordered by Syria and Israel. The former is in a worse state than us, while the latter is an enemy, so impoverished people have no choice but to put their lives at risk at sea to ensure a dignified life for their children,” a- he added.