At least 70 dead in latest ‘catastrophic’ shipwreck, off Syrian coast: UN agencies |

In a joint newsletter released late on Thursday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCRand the United Nations’ Palestinian refugee relief agency (UNRWA) said the boat set sail for Europe on Tuesday from the port of Miniyeh, near Tripoli, Lebanon, carrying between 120 and 170 passengers.

The refugees and migrants are mainly Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian. Passengers include women, children, men and the elderly.

Search and rescue operations have confirmed that at least 70 people died in Syrian waters.

At least 20 people hospitalized

“Initial reports indicate that 20 people have been transported to hospital in Tartous city, some in serious condition,” the statement said.

It was reported that the boat was believed to be on its way to Europe, but the cause of the sinking is unknown.

In Lebanon, three agencies are following up with the relevant authorities and will provide support for the bereaved. UNHCR in Syria is also providing some material support to survivors recovering from the ordeal in Tartous.

“This is yet another heartbreaking tragedy and we extend our deepest condolences to all those affected,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

A call for unity

“We call for full solidarity from the international community to help improve the conditions of those forcibly displaced and host communities in the Middle East, especially in neighboring Syria. Too many people are being pushed to the edge.”

António Vitorino, IOM Director-General, stated that those simply seeking safety “should not be forced to undertake such dangerous and often deadly migratory journeys”.

“We must work together to strengthen safe and legal pathways for regular migration to help reduce loss of life and protect vulnerable people on the move.

Volunteers help refugees reach the island of Lesbos, in the North Aegean region of Greece.  (file)

© UNICEF / Ashley Gilbertson

Volunteers help refugees reach the island of Lesbos, in the North Aegean region of Greece. (file)

‘Nobody is gentle on these boats’

“This is just a tragedy. No one is taking it easy on these death ships. People are making these dangerous decisions, risking their lives in search of dignity,” said UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini.

“We must do more to deliver a better future and address the feeling of hopelessness in Lebanon and across the region, including for Palestinian refugees.”

In response to the increase in sailings out of the region in recent months, the IOM, UNHCR and UNRWA are calling on coastal states to “intensify their efforts to build capacity to provide search and rescue services. accidents and work to ensure predictability in determining safe locations of disembarkation. “

Address the root causes

However, the agencies consider it more important to take action to address the root causes of these movements and for the international community, consistent with the principle of shared responsibility, to increase enhance access to alternative, safer roads.

“More humanitarian and development assistance must also go to displaced and receptive communities in the region to help alleviate their suffering and improve their living conditions and opportunities.

“Failure to do this, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and internally displaced persons will continue to make perilous journeys in search of safety, protection and security. protection and a better life.

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