The Lebanese government has demanded an investigation into an incident in the night between Saturday and Sunday (April 24-25) in which at least six migrants drowned off the coast of Tripoli. Some survivors have said that the military cutter voluntarily rammed into the migrant vessel.
The Lebanese government on Tuesday (April 26) asked the armed forces to open an investigation into an incident reported in the night between Saturday and Sunday, April 24-25, in which at least six migrants drowned off the coast of Tripoli, state news agency NNA reports.
The news agency said the cabinet has charged top military officials with "conducting a transparent investigation, under the supervision of competent judicial authorities, into the circumstances of the incident."
Some survivors said the military cutter voluntarily rammed the packed migrant boat, which was attempting to reach Cyprus.
30 people missing
The army responded saying that the tragedy was caused by bad weather, overcrowding and the "reckless" maneuvers of traffickers.
The UN says the boat was carrying 84 passengers, including Lebanese and Syrian nationals. The army claims that 48 passengers were rescued. So far, six lifeless bodies have been found, including that of an 18-month-old girl. Some 30 people are still reportedly missing.
The UN says that, since the beginning of 2021, over 1,500 people have attempted to leave Lebanon -- which has been hit by its worst financial crisis in decades.
High tension after migrants' death
Just three weeks from legislative elections scheduled on May 15, the deadly migrant shipwreck has sparked further tensions in the country. Sit-in protests were organized in Tripoli, Beirut and Sidon. Demonstrators expressed rage against the political ruling class, accused of being responsible for the financial collapse that is driving many Lebanese to attempt to flee the country by sea.
Lebanon has been in default since March 2020. The financial crisis began in the fall of 2019, before the start of the pandemic. The UN says that over 80% of the population in Lebanon lives in poverty.
Meanwhile a campaign against Premier Najib Miqati, a billionaire from Tripoli, is raging on social media. Images of his yacht docked in the French port of Nice have been published alongside photos of the migrant shipwreck off Lebanon reported over the weekend.
Energy Minister Walid Fayyad, who was recognized by passersby on Sunday night in a bar in downtown Beirut while visibly drunk, was approached by some people who insulted and shoved him. Videos of the scene filmed by witnesses with their cell phones were posted online.