A boat with three dozen Syrian refugees on board sank off the coast of Lebanon on Saturday on its way to Cyprus and most were rescued by the country’s army but at least one child, aged 5, died, the Lebanese press and information office said.
The boat was ferrying refugees illegally to Cyprus, and four more people were transferred to the hospital after it sank.
The boat was some 180km away from the island, when it foundered off the coast of northern Lebanon, sources said. Three more of the people on boat were in a serious condition in hospital.
The army said in a statement that after receiving information about the boat it arrived at the scene immediately and it pulled it shore.
Lebanon is hosting around 1 million registered refugees from Syria’s civil war, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR although the Lebanese government puts the figure at around 1.5 million.
On Tuesday the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos said the EU will send a team of experts to Cyprus to discuss with the authorities ways to prevent further pressure on the island from any future inflow of refugees, mainly from war-torn neighbouring Syria.
Avramopoulos said the EU is ready to afford Cyprus assistance across the board to tackle potential flows of refugees fleeing Syria.
“Our assistance is on all levels: equipment, personnel, technical and financial,” Avramopoulos said after a meeting with the ministers of interior, foreign affairs and justice in Nicosia.
Last Saturday it was reported that there had been over 90 migrant arrivals in Cyprus over a period of ten days.
The migrants were intercepted in Paphos, Nicosia and Famagusta, deepening the authorities’ concerns that the island has become a destination for people fleeing the war in neighbouring Syria.
Most of the 15,000 people who have been granted or are seeking asylum in Cyprus are Syrian with a 40 per cent increase in applications in the first five months of this year alone.
Between 2002 and 2017, the island afforded international protection – asylum and subsidiary protection – to some 10,000 foreign nationals. There are 3,000 pending applications since last year plus a further 2,435 in 2018.