BEIRUT — Lebanese authorities plan to enforce a series of “measures” to curb irregular migration, the caretaker cabinet announced following a meeting Thursday in Beirut, a week after an attempted irregular boat journey ended in the deaths of more than 100 people.
The tragedy was only the latest in a series of migration attempts by sea, as some people vie to leave behind Lebanon’s economic woes with the help of illicit people smugglers.
Authorities plan to launch a public awareness campaign “to explain the consequences of irregular emigration,” caretaker Minister of Interior Bassam Mawlawi announced after Thursday’s cabinet meeting. In addition, all boats will need to be registered officially and naval forces will increase the frequency of their patrols. Mawlawi did not clarify in his statement when enforcement of the new measures would begin.
Mawlawi added that specialized security officers who also attended the meeting would work on enforcing “all the necessary measures.”
According to Mawlawi, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati stated during the meeting that the heads of Lebanon’s ports must “provide us with the regulations to verify this issue through the security services.”
Mawlawi added cabinet members decided “to tighten the preemptive intelligence measures by all agencies … to combat irregular emigration and return irregular emigrants safely.”
Following the economic collapse in Lebanon, Syrian and Palestinian refugees as well as Lebanese citizens have attempted to cross the Mediterranean in makeshift boats to European countries, including the island of Cyprus, located 175 kilometers off the Lebanese coast.
More than 100 people of Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian descent were killed last week when a boat that had departed from northern Lebanon sank off the coast of Tartus, a nearby Syrian port city.
Last April, the sinking of an overloaded migrant boat, which had been allegedly chased by the Lebanese navy off the coast of Tripoli, left dozens of people dead and provoked a public outcry. On Sept. 13, the Turkish coast guard announced the death of six people, including two babies, and rescued 73 people trying to reach Europe, off the southwestern coast of Turkey. They had reportedly boarded the vessel in Tripoli.
According to the UN, at least 38 boats carrying more than 1,500 people left or attempted to leave Lebanon via irregular sea routes between January and November 2021.