BEIRUT: The Lebanese navy and a UN force have rescued 32 Syrian refugees whose boat broke down as they attempted to reach Cyprus, the navy said Friday.
The United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, said it found the craft on Thursday morning after receiving reports of a missing boat.
The “small white boat”, carrying 19 men, six women and seven children, was stranded at sea northwest of Beirut, it said.
“The boat was out of fuel and the passengers had been without food and water for four days,” it said in a statement.
It said Lebanese navy vessels arrived and transported the passengers to Beirut on Thursday night.
The Lebanese military said 32 Syrians and a Lebanese citizen were aboard the craft, and were attempting to reach the eastern Mediterranean island “illegally”.
The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) has registered nearly one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon.
Humanitarian representatives and government officials say the number is likely much higher, since many Syrians who have fled to Lebanon are not officially registered with the United Nations.
In September, EU member Cyprus announced it was looking to broker a repatriation agreement with Beirut because of an increased influx of migrants from Lebanon.
Cyprus Interior Minister Constantinos Petrides said his country faces one of the largest migratory flows per capita, with 4,022 asylum requests in the first eight months of 2018 — 55 percent more than in the same period last year. —AFP