The bodies of 71 migrants have reportedly been recovered following another shipwreck in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Syria, which heads of UN agencies described as a “simply tragic” development that demanded an international response to improve conditions for those forced to flee their homes.
In a joint news release issued late on Thursday, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, and UN relief agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA) said the boat had reportedly set off towards Europe on Tuesday from the port of Miniyeh, near Tripoli, Lebanon, carrying between 120 and 170 passengers.
The refugees and migrants were mostly Syrians, Lebanese, and Palestinians. Passengers included women, children, men and elderly people. Search and rescue operations have confirmed that at least 70 people died in Syrian waters.
At least 20 hospitalized
“Early reports indicate that 20 people were transferred to the hospital in the city of Tartous, some in a serious condition”, said the statement.
News reports said that boat was believed to be en route to Europe, but it is unclear what led to the sinking. In Lebanon, the three agencies are following up with the relevant authorities and will offer support to bereaved families, the reported. UNHCR in Syria is also providing some material support to the survivors who are recovering from their ordeal in Tartous.
“This is yet another heart-wrenching tragedy and we extend our deepest condolences to all those impacted,” said Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
‘Harsh reminder’: UNICEF
The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said in a statement issued later on Thursday, that the tragedy, “and those that have come before it, are harsh reminders that collective action is urgently needed to stop families dying at sea.”
The agency reported that another boat carrying some 55 migrants, had also sunk off the Greek coast, with three children reported missing. Lebanon with it’s spiralling crises, has witnessed a rise in “desperate attempts” to flee the country in recent months, “that have left many dead”, UNICEF noted.
“Each and every death of a child at sea underscores the need to protect and support children where they are and expand options for children and families to move safely, without having to risk their lives.”
The agency said it was standing by to provide help to the children and families affected, and remains committed to working with Lebanon and other countries in the region, “to ensure children’s safety and wellbeing at all time.”
This post was originally published by the UN News Centre. Click here to read.