Illegal migration is on the rise from northern Lebanon towards European shores.
The capsizing 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 strike Lebanon that is struggling with unprecedented economic and living crises.
Army and naval units entered the al-Abdeh-Akkar port in northern Lebanon on Friday, seizing a boat that was suspected to have been prepared to transport migrants illegally.
Two days ago, the army said it arrested a citizen in the al-Beddawi region for preparing an illegal migrant sea operation.
It said it 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 boat sinking in April has not deterred illegal migration.
Two smuggling attempts were thwarted just two days ago, he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“We no longer know about the departure of Lebanese boats until they have reached their destination in Europe,” he said.
As for the Syrian migrants, he revealed that “no one knows their numbers or the number of boats that are taking them away from northern Lebanon. No doubt the figures are high.”
Moreover, he said that around a week ago, a boat transporting some 50 Palestinians left the al-Beddawi camp. “We didn’t know about the departure until after the migrants posted photos of themselves after they reached Italian shores,” he added.
“Either the concerned security agencies are facing difficulty in curbing illegal migration or they don’t intend to,” he remarked.
Lebanon may be following Turkey’s approach in extorting Europe to pressure them into providing funds to the refugees and ease the burden they are placing on the Lebanese state, said Ibrahim.
Politician Dr. Khaldoun al-Sharif stated that the dire economic and financial crisis is pushing people to take the treacherous sea journey out of Lebanon, which may be enduring the worst economic crisis the world has seen since World War II.
Unemployment has reached 50 percent and drug abuse 13 percent, he noted. Add to that a recent report that found the Lebanese people to be the angriest in the world.
People are desperate and the officials are continuing their petty political bickering as if nothing has changed, he lamented.
Amid Dandachi, who lost his three children in the April sinking, said the illegal migration will continue in spite of the tragedy.
“The conditions we are enduring in Tripoli and Akkar, from poverty to the dollarization of services while salaries remain in Lebanese pounds, will inevitably force people out to sea,” he stressed.
The migration will continue to rise 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 the impoverished people have no choice but to put their life in danger at sea to secure a dignified life for their children,” he added.