People check for clothes and shoes donated by citizens for poor families in front of the central bank in Beirut, Lebanon on July 7, 2020 | Photo: EPA/Nabil Mounzer
People check for clothes and shoes donated by citizens for poor families in front of the central bank in Beirut, Lebanon on July 7, 2020 | Photo: EPA/Nabil Mounzer

Hundreds of people have attempted the dangerous crossing from Lebanon to Cyprus via the Mediterranean in recent months, according to Save the Children. The organization said the number of crossings increased significantly in September.

As the economic crisis continues to deepen in Lebanon, hundreds of people have left the country in recent months, making desperate boat journeys across the Mediterranean to reach Cyprus. That's according to a report international NGO Save the Children published on Wednesday (October 14).

The NGO said there was a significant uptick in crossings in September, with 230 people travelling on five boats headed to Cyprus that were pushed back and returned to Lebanon.

21 crossing attempts between July and September

According to Save the Children, between July and September there were 21 attempted sea crossings made from Lebanon, a significant increase compared to 17 throughout all of 2019.

These dangerous journeys have claimed the lives of several people -- including children -- this year, the organization said.

In the report, Save the Children tells the story of a Syrian family that tried to get to Cyprus from Lebanon. The harrowing account describes children witnessing the death of their own mother and parents forced to tie the dead bodies of their children to the side of the boat to avoid losing them at sea.

Khaled (not his real name), 12, was on board when his mother passed away on the eighth and final day of the journey. She was suffering from diabetes.

"We sailed for about 20 hours until we were out of fuel and then they told us we were lost. We stayed for eight days without food or water. Then my mother's health worsened. What I hated the most during those eight days was when the boat leader told us we got lost, and the thirst and hunger of the people. We were hopeless… desperate," he said.

Lebanon in crisis

The rise in families taking to the sea to escape Lebanon comes as the country of just over six million people is grappling with its worst peacetime crisis. Soaring inflation, a collapsing pound and shortage in essentials such as medicine and fuel amid an upsurge in COVID-19 cases have destroyed many people's livelihoods.

Poverty rates have soared, with an additional 650,000 Lebanese children estimated to have been pushed into poverty over the past six months. Since the explosion that hit the capital Beirut at the beginning of August, Save the Children's teams have reportedly recorded a 574% increase in requests for shelter and financial support among Lebanese communities.

 

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