Creating new perspectives since 2009

Palestinian refugees hold international community responsible for migrant deaths

August 20, 2015 at 1:49 pm

Palestinian refugees who have fled the violence in Syria and are now in neighbouring Lebanon hold the international community and UNRWA responsible for failing to make adequate provision for them. This, they have alleged, pushes hundreds to make the perilous journey to Turkey and Europe by illegal means, leading to the drowning of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean Sea.

At least nine migrants, including women and children, were the latest to die when the boat carrying them and about 40 Palestinians from Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria capsized en route to Turkey yesterday. Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said that the vessel left the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli on Monday and capsized after entering Turkish territorial waters.

Tripoli’s former mayor, Abdul Qadir Alam El-Din, who works in the port, said that refugees who have valid identification papers travel legally, but those who do not have valid papers, travel illegally from many places in the area using fishing boats and other vessels to reach their destination.

One Palestinian refugee from Syria, Amira Nassar, lives in Tripoli but her husband is still trapped in Damascus. Her eldest son was forced by extreme need to travel illegally nearly a year ago but his boat sank off the coast of Italy and his fate is still unknown. “Life is very difficult in Lebanon,” Nassar explained to Turkey’s Anadolu news agency. “I would travel with my daughters, today before tomorrow, even if illegally. There is no difference… here or in the sea, death is the same.”

Arkan Bader described the latest drowning incident as a “new tragedy to befall the Palestinian people in the diaspora from Syria to Lebanon.” He said that young people and families take such huge risks at sea in search of a basic level of a decent life. The Palestinian refugee, who also lived in Syria until recently, put some of the blame on the Lebanese authorities, who “do not treat the Palestinian refugees in a humane manner.”

According to Bader, the information available to the families of those who are still missing after the latest sinking suggests that the Turkish maritime authorities are making great efforts to rescue those who are still alive near the Turkish coast. “Survivors are being taken to hospital for treatment,” he pointed out.

The Turkish Coast Guard Service has rescued over 33,000 illegal migrants in the Aegean Sea since the beginning of this year. Most were heading for Greece. Forty-seven people have been arrested for human trafficking.