Thousands of Palestinians prayed on a small soccer field in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon on Saturday, to mourn one of dozens of migrants who died after their boat sank off the Syrian coast this week, even as others have sworn to undertake the same perilous journey. .
Abdul-Al Abdul-Al, 24, hugged his father on Tuesday before boarding a crowded boat from a nearby town in search of a better life in Europe. It was his 14th attempt to flee the troubled Mediterranean country, this time ending with the return of his dead body. He was to be buried in the camp where he was born, his father, Omar, told The Associated Press during the funeral procession.
The head of al-Basel hospital in the Syrian coastal city of Tartous said on Saturday the death toll had reached 89, adding that of the 20 others receiving treatment at the medical center, six had been discharged.
The Lebanese army announced on Saturday that troops had arrested the man who allegedly organized the deadly trip.
The incident was the deadliest so far, as increasing numbers of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians attempted to flee Lebanon by sea to Europe in search of jobs and stability. In Lebanon, tens of thousands of people have lost their jobs while the national currency has fallen by more than 90%, eradicating the purchasing power of thousands of families and plunging three quarters of the population into poverty.
Alongside a million Syrian refugees, the tiny country of Lebanon is home to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants. Many live in the dozen refugee camps scattered across the country. Palestinians suffer widespread discrimination in Lebanon where they are deprived of specific jobs or property and since the end of the 1975-90 civil war many have emigrated.
After midday prayers in Nahr el-Bared, hundreds of people gathered in a courtyard used to play football where Abdul-Al’s coffin was placed in the middle. Prayers were held before the body was transported to a nearby cemetery where thousands of people had gathered to witness the young man’s rest.
Omar Abdul-Al said his son had tried to leave Lebanon before but was unsuccessful because sometimes the migrant boats he took had technical problems or faced the high seas. had to swim to shore, the man said.
We don’t want to live here anymore. We want to leave, said Omar Abdul-Al, adding that he encouraged his late son to leave and is now encouraging his other four sons to leave Lebanon. He added that his sons are all well educated but cannot find jobs.
We are going through a serious crisis. There are no medicines or bread or anything, the father said. He added that many other Palestinians were planning to board the boat but there were no more people.
Another relative of Abdul-Al shouted that there was a disaster in Nahr el-Bared saying that there were about 30 people missing from the camp who were on the boat. He said people were selling their homes and cars to leave.
Several others have been buried since Friday.
There were conflicting reports about how many people were on board the boat when it sank, with some saying at least 120. Details about the ship, such as its size and capacity, were also unclear.
In the aftermath of the disaster, the Lebanese army said troops raided the homes of several suspected smugglers on Friday, detaining eight people involved in smuggling people abroad.
Residents of northern Lebanon say people pay around US$6,000 for an adult and US$3,000 for a child to reach Europe.
At the morgue, Omar Abdel-Al said he found his son’s body intact although it was difficult to identify many of the dozens of other bodies there.
Anyone who comes with a boat, people are ready to go, he said.
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