Thirty-six survivors rescued from boat near Lebanon territorial waters: UNIFIL

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UN maritime armed forces stopped a boat outside of Lebanon’s territorial waters on Monday, rescuing 36 people following one death on the ship, a statement from the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said.

“All the 36 survivors are currently being provided immediate medical treatment on board the UNIFIL Maritime Task Force ship before being transferred to the Lebanese authorities,” the statement said.

The statement did not say where the boat, or the people on board the boat, had come from or where they were attempting to go, but said the task force ship that rescued those aboard was moving toward the Port of Beirut, the site of August’s deadly explosion in the Lebanese capital.

Last week, five boats with migrants from Lebanon carrying Syrians and Lebanese sought entry in nearby Cyprus within the span of 48 hours. The UN refugee agency said that while some boats were allowed to disembark, others were sent back to Lebanon.

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In response, Cyprus said it would send a team to Lebanon to help authorities there to stop more boats from heading to the island some 160 kilometers away from Lebanon's shore.

There are around 1 million Syrian refugees living in Lebanon, and as conditions in the country continue to deteriorate as the economy continues to collapse, Lebanese and Syrians are increasingly looking for a way out. The coronavirus pandemic and last month’s explosion have made matters worse in the country.

“UNIFIL Maritime Task Force has also taken part in humanitarian efforts in the past when called upon,” the statement said.

UNIFL is a joint UN-NATO peacekeeping mission headquartered in the south of Lebanon.

The UNIFIL Maritime Task Force was deployed at the request of the Lebanese government to assist the Lebanese Navy in securing territorial waters and to help prevent the unauthorized entry of arms or other smuggled material by sea into Lebanon, the press release said.

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