Alleged migrant smuggler arrested for shipwreck killing at least 87
Cairo, Sep 24 (EFE).- The Lebanese army has arrested the suspected migrant smuggler allegedly responsible for organizing an illegal barge route from Lebanon which capsized off the coast of Syria killing at least 87 people, the military said Saturday.
The army said that intelligence services had arrested the suspect, identified with the initials BD, on Wednesday after the boat carrying 150 migrants sank.
“The detainee is involved in the management of a migrant smuggling network along the Lebanese coast,” the military said in a statement issued on Saturday, adding that the suspect had confessed to organizing the boat route to smuggle migrants from Tripoli to Italy.
At least 87 people died in the shipwreck and some 50 other people remained unaccounted for, while 20 survivors are being treated in hospital, Lebanese authorities reported Friday.
At least ten of the victims were minors, according to the United Nations.
The vessel set out Tuesday from the Lebanese port city of Tripoli, with 150 Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian migrants aboard, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which is based in the United Kingdom.
Survivors told the SOHR that they had hoped to reach Cyprus, a European Union member-state.
The SOHR, citing unnamed sources, said that many of the Syrian migrants onboard the ship had sold homes and other assets to finance the trip to Europe.
The shipwreck was one of the deadliest accidents since people began fleeing Lebanon in 2020 amid an economic meltdown that has seen the currency lose more than 90 percent of its value.
Nearly 80% of the Lebanese population live below the poverty line, while data from the UN 0hows that 90% of Syrian refugees in Lebanon are impoverished.
More than 75% of the 38 boats that sailed from Lebanon in 2020 were intercepted at sea and the more than 1,500 would-be migrants they carried were repatriated, according to the UN. EFE