Lebanon's navy and UN peacekeepers on Saturday rescued more than 200 migrants from a boat sinking in the Mediterranean Sea hours after it left northern Lebanon's coast, the military said in a statement. Two migrants were killed, the AP reports. The army statement said the vessel was carrying people "who were trying to illegally leave Lebanon's territorial waters." It said three Lebanese navy boats and one from the UN peacekeeping force in Lebanon, known as UNIFIL, rescued 232 migrants.
Reports from the northern city of Tripoli—Lebanon’s second largest and most impoverished —said Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian men, women, and children were on the boat that left northern Lebanon after midnight Friday. Residents of Tripoli who are in contact with survivors said the dead were a Syrian woman and a Syrian child. UNIFIL said in a statement that the Maritime Task Force is assisting the Lebanese navy in search and rescue operations in the sea between Beirut and Tripoli "where a boat in distress with a large number of people on board was found. Our Indonesian and Greek ships are on the scene."
Lebanese security forces have been working to prevent migrants from heading to Europe, often in search of jobs, at a time when the small nation is in the grips of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history, per the AP. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says risky sea migration attempts from Lebanon over the past year have surged by 73%. On Sept. 21, a crowded boat capsized off the coast of Tartus, Syria, just over a day after departing Lebanon. At least 94 people were killed, among them at least 24 children. Twenty people survived, and some remain missing.
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