The Lebanese Navy and UN peacekeepers rescued more than 200 migrants from a boat sinking in the Mediterranean Sea hours after it left the coast of northern Lebanon, the military said in a statement, adding that a Syrian women and child died in the incident.

Lebanese security forces have been working to prevent migrants from heading to Europe at a time when the small nation is in the grips of the worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history.

This is a locator map for Lebanon with its capital, Beirut. (AP Photo)

Lebanon is mired in what the World Bank indeed describes as one of the worst economic crises in modern history. The country also hosts more than a million refugees from Syria’s war.

It was once just a launchpad for foreign migrants and refugees, but nearly three years of economic collapse have left Lebanon’s own citizens increasingly joining Syrian and Palestinian refugees clamoring to leave by dangerous sea routes.

We can no longer live in this country – or Syria, said Younes Jomaa, a Syrian originating from Idlib and a brother of one of the surviving refugees. They are among millions displaced over more than a decade by Syria’s war.

In late September about 100 migrants and refugees died when their boat sank off the Syrian coast after departing from Lebanon, in one of the deadliest such episodes.

The crowded boat capsized on September 21, 2022 off the coast of Tartus, Syria, just over a day after departing Lebanon. At least 94 people were killed, among them at least 24 children. Twenty people survived and some remain missing.

It was one of the deadliest ship sinking in the eastern Mediterranean Sea in recent years, as more and more Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians try to flee cash-strapped Lebanon to Europe to find jobs and stability.

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Lebanon’s economic meltdown that began in October 2019, has left three- quarters of the country’s 6 million people, including a million Syrian refugees, living in poverty.

The UN’s refugee agency has said at least 1,570 individuals, including 186 Lebanese nationals, had embarked or tried to embark on illicit sea journeys from Lebanon between January and November 2021.

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The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says risky sea migration attempts from Lebanon over the past year have surged by 73%.

Migrants and refugees departing from Lebanon head for Europe, with one of the main destinations being Cyprus, only 175 km (110 miles) away.

Al Jazeera / ABC Flash Point News 2023.

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04-01-23 09:47

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