Bulgarian coast guard rescues 53 migrants from Black Sea

The bodies of 53 people have been recovered off the coast of Syria, the Lebanese transport minister said on Friday, increasing the death tol...

The bodies of 53 people have been recovered off the coast of Syria, the Lebanese transport minister said on Friday, increasing the death toll from an ill-fated migrant voyage from Lebanon to Europe earlier this week.

Syrian authorities began finding bodies in the sea off the coast of Tartus on Thursday afternoon. Authorities have not yet said what happened to the boat.

The incident is one of the deadliest since a surging number of Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians have tried to flee crisis-hit Lebanon by sea to Europe.

In Lebanon alone, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs and the Lebanese pound has dropped more than 90 percent of its value, eradicating the purchasing power of thousands of families that now live in extreme poverty.

Syrian state media quoted one survivor as saying the boat carried over 150 people, which would leave over 100 migrants still missing at sea.

Tartus Governor Abdulhalim Khalil has reportedly visited the 20 survivors at the hospital.

It was not immediately clear how many people were aboard and where exactly they were heading, but coast guards are still searching for bodies.

State media gave no further details but quoted some of the survivors as saying that they sailed from the Lebanese coastal town of Minyeh several days ago apparently aiming to reach Europe. It said the boat was carrying people of different nationalities.

Thousands of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians have left Lebanon on boats over the past months seeking better opportunities in Europe.

Lebanon has a population of 6 million, including 1 million Syrian refugees, and has been in the grips of a severe economic meltdown since late 2019 that has pulled over three-quarters of the population into poverty.

In April, a boat carrying dozens of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians trying to migrate by sea to Italy went down more than five kilometers (three miles) from the port of Tripoli, following a confrontation with the Lebanese navy. Dozens were killed in the incident.

Migrants have been leaving the country from the northern Lebanese coast that is the most impoverished region in the small country.

On Thursday, Lebanese officials said naval forces rescued a boat carrying 55 migrants after it faced technical problems six nautical miles (7 miles) off the coast of the northern region of Akkar. It said the people rescued included two pregnant women and two children.

Earlierly, the Bulgarian coast guard rescued 38 migrants trying to reach Romania from the Black Sea Thursday, the interior ministry announced, the first such incident in the region since 2014.

The group, which included eight women and eight children, were found in Bulgarian territorial waters where they had got into difficulty in stormy weather, said Anton Mirkov, the head of the region’s border police.
The migrants, who included people from Afghanistan and Syria, had started out from Turkey.
Bulgaria is seeing increasing numbers of migrants arriving in its waters from the Turkish coastline to the south.
It has stepped up patrols since the death of two police officers in August at Bourgas, on the shores of the Black Sea. They were run down as they tried to stop a bus carrying migrants.
The authorities have sent around 300 soldiers to reinforce surveillance of the barbed wire barriers set up between 2014 and 2017.
In August, the country’s refugee agency reported a surge in the numbers of illegal immigrants arrested compared to last year, when 12,000 were detained.



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