The number of bodies recovered from a boat carrying refugees off the Syrian coast has risen to 102 with 40 others still missing.
The boat, which was carrying 150 refugees, set out from Lebanon last week but ran into difficulty off the coast of Syria, near Tartous.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has said that 20 people have been rescued by the Syrian authorities.
The rescue operation began on Thursday afternoon. Among the dead was Mustafa Misto from Lebanon, his wife and three young children.
On board there was a mix of Lebanese, Syrians and Palestinians. It has become the deadliest crossing yet along this route.
The Lebanon-Cyprus route for refugees has grown busier since Lebanon’s financial crisis began in 2019.
Between January 2020 and June 2021 roughly 1,162 migrants, mainly Syrians but also Lebanese, Palestinians and others, attempted to reach Cyprus from Lebanon, according to the UNHCR.
Only about a third of them successfully landed with the others intercepted by Lebanese authorities, turned back by Cypriot authorities, or running into trouble at sea.
Lebanon’s currency has crashed, pushing large parts of the population into poverty. Some 55 per cent of people are now estimated to be living below the poverty line.
At the same time, Lebanon’s announcement over the summer that it would return 15,000 Syrian refugees to Syria a month using the rationale that the country was now “safe” has sparked a series of departures.
Opposition activists face torture, detention and death if they return to Syria and those who have already returned have been persecuted by the Syrian government.