At least 34 migrants died when the boat they were travelling in sank off Syria's coast after departing from neighbouring Lebanon, the government in Damascus says.
Syrian authorities have found 34 dead and 14 survivors from a migrant boat near the coastal city of Tartous that survivors said had left from northern Lebanon, Samer Qubrusli, the director-general of ports, told Reuters.
On Thursday, Qubrusli cited survivors as saying that the boat left from Minyeh in north Lebanon days ago and added that those on board had held several nationalities.
He said search operations were ongoing in difficult conditions due to rough seas and high winds.
Lebanon has seen a spike in migration driven by one of the world's deepest economic crises since the 1850s.
In addition to Lebanese, many of those leaving aboard migrant boats are themselves already refugees from Syria and Palestine.
Dozens of people in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli held a protest earlier on Thursday to alert authorities that they had lost contact with a migrant boat with dozens on board.
Reuters could not immediately confirm if it was the same boat mentioned by the Syrian authorities.
Increase in people leaving
The Lebanese army on Wednesday said it had rescued 55 people on board one malfunctioning boat in the country's territorial waters that it towed back to shore.
In April, a migrant boat that set off from near Tripoli sank during an interception by the Lebanese navy off the country's coast.
About 80 Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian migrants were on board, of whom some 40 were rescued, seven were confirmed dead and around 30 officially remain missing.
The number of people who left or tried to leave Lebanon by sea nearly doubled in 2021 from 2020, and rose again by more than 70 percent in 2022 compared with the same period last year, the United Nations refugee agency told Reuters earlier this month.
The main reasons cited include an "inability to survive in Lebanon due to the deteriorating economic situation" and the "lack of access to basic services and limited job opportunities," it said