A “Fake” Route Taken by Syrians to Reach Cyprus from Lebanon

Saving Syrian refugees near the cost of the Lebanese city of Akkar – 22 September 2018 (NNA)

Saving Syrian refugees near the cost of the Lebanese city of Akkar – 22 September 2018 (NNA)

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The “Death Journeys,” or what is referred to as the illegal sea migration, never relinquished the Syrian landscape, a cause that media intensively covered between 2015 and 2017. These journeys, however, have lately came back in a new shape and place, through the Lebanese routes, with its heroes being none but the Syrian people who are seeking stability.

Two incidents at the Lebanese water brought back the memories of a road taken by Syrian people from Turkey to Greece, which killed many as they drowned, while it delivered others to the desired destination, amidst fears of the repetition of the “Turkey-Greece” scenario but with “Lebanon-Cyprus” line this time.

The New Route’s First Victim

The phenomena, of Syrian people’s migration from Lebanon to Cyprus, started on September 22, when the Lebanese Red Crescent announced the death of a Syrian child, when a boat, boarding Syrian refugees, drowned while they were attempting to exit Lebanon via sea in an “illegal” manner.

The boat, which kicked off from the Abdeh Port, the city of Akkar, heading towards Cyprus was boarding 37 persons, two Lebanese men and the rest were Syrian refugees, based in Lebanon. The Red Crescent managed to save all the people on board, except for the child who passed away.

The second incident, which promised a futuristic danger, was the loss of a boat near the Lebanese cost, carrying 32 Syrians and a single Lebanese man, for the Naval Forces, under the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), on October 12, announced finding the boat four days after losing it.

In a statement, “UNIFIL” said that the boat was lost after it ran out of fuel, and people lacked food and water for four days, 19 men, six women and seven children, pointing out that they are in good conditions.

The boat launched its journey from the city of Tripoli, heading “illegally” to Cyprus Island. Nonetheless, the smuggling operation failed, and the migrants were handed over to the Lebanese General Directorate of General Security.

 

Illusions Told by Smugglers

Abdulrahman Akkari, a Syrian activist based in Lebanon, told Enab Baladi that the sea-migration route from Lebanon to Cyprus is new to the Syrian refugee community, pointing out that none of the attempts at reaching Cyprus have succeeded, for none of the Syrians, based in Lebanon, managed to reach Cyprus so far.

With absent data to encourage Syrian people to take this sea route, Akkari said that people are holding on to illusions sold by merchants and smugglers, who stress that the guide, accompanying the boat, will get them to Cyprus in a few hours, from where they will go to Greece, after which they will be resettled in one of the European countries. The activist stressed that this narrative is “fake.”

He added that the smugglers are Lebanese nationalists and are known for the Lebanese General Directorate of General Security, pointing out that the cost of the sea journey is yet unknown, estimating it with over 1500 dollars per person.

The Syrian activist attributed Syrian people’s, in Lebanon, choice to migrate to Cyprus to the latest pressures they have been suffering, summarizing them with preventing Syrians from integration within the labor market, as they do not possess legal documents, in addition to the cuts that befell the monthly food aid, which UNCHER delivers.

However, the key obsession, according to Akkari, is the fear of being deported to Syria, in the shadow of the rising official Lebanese discourse that is demanding the deportation of Syrian refugees, million in number, to the safe areas in Syria.

Though Syrian people’s migration from Lebanon to Cyprus is considered novel, this country has witnessed other “illegal” means followed by Syrians, including the migration through legal ships from the Lebanese ports, using “fake” documents and passports, while others migrated through the Beirut International Airport, also utilizing fake documents.

Migration turned to low key in the past tow years, as the Syrian activist Abdulrahman Akkari has told Enab Baladi, adding that migration through boats or “rickety boats” never happened in Lebanon, except for the two mentioned incidents.

A Sea Documenting Its Deaths

The International Organization for Migration estimates that about 463 migrants and asylum seekers drowned at the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe, this happened in the period between early 2018 and mid last March.

The Organization described the Mediterranean Sea with the “largest cemetery in the world,” saying that more than three thousand migrants and asylum seekers drowned there in 2017, while the number reached 4150 persons in 2016.

The Mediterranean Sea turned into a destination for many Syrians who sought asylum in Europe, which followed the restrictions imposed by the European Union’s states at their land borders and deals they signed as to limit the flow of migrants.

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