Lebanon: Two Children Die at Sea as Desperate Families Seek to Escape Worsening Economic Crisis

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (Sept. 18, 2020)—Two children reportedly lost their lives during an attempt to cross from Lebanon to Cyprus last week. The flimsy dinghy is believed to have become stranded on the Mediterranean Sea for several days, causing the young children, one boy aged two and the other—age not confirmed—to die from heat, hunger, and thirst. Save the Children is deeply concerned at this tragic report, which is the latest in a surge of Lebanese and Syrian families making desperate attempts to escape increasingly harsh conditions in Lebanon.  

Over the past few weeks, a growing number of families have attempted the perilous route from Tripoli to Cape Greco. It is reported that at times as many forty people, including women and children, have been crammed into boats attempting to cross into Cyprus—a journey that can take up to 40 hours.

Cypriot authorities have reportedly returned several groups who made it to the island back to Lebanon, which according to local migrant organizations took place without access to international protection services. 

Jennifer Moorehead, Save the Children’s Country Director in Lebanon, said:

“Save the Children is horrified at the report of two children dying at sea, and their relatives having to push their bodies overboard, as the boat was abandoned by smugglers. The pain and suffering this family would have endured to drive them to this, only to culminate in such a tragic end, is truly unimaginable. Two children have paid with their lives for the miserable conditions that thousands of families in Lebanon continue to experience. 

“The Beirut Port explosion has added to the daily suffering of vulnerable families struggling already with an unprecedented economic and COVID-19 crises. People have lost their homes and jobs just as the cost of living soared, making them lose hope in this country. A lot of families are homeless and hungry and don’t know how they will feed their children. Among the most vulnerable families across the country, many are feeling they have no choice but to take to the sea with the hope that it is going to be better on the other side.

“We appeal to the caretaker Lebanese government to address the urgent needs of children living in poverty, and to provide vulnerable families with much-needed support. We are also calling on Cypriot authorities to put the interest of children first, and to address the needs of those who make it to Cypriot shores. They have to be offered immediate access to asylum and protection in accordance with EU and international laws.”  

Even before the Beirut explosion, Save the Children analysis showed that the collapsing Lebanese economy had pushed more than half a million children in Beirut into a struggle for survival. Their families cannot afford the basic food, electricity, cooking fuel, hygiene and water needed to survive. 

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