The Lebanese elite deadlier than its Death Boat migrants

For the sixty or so Tripolitans, who decided to take a chance and attempt to flee by sea to Europe in search of a better life, death and hardship were a calculated risk they were willing to take. Yet the tragedy that unfolded on Saturday night when their boat was capsized by the Lebanese Navy as it pursued them left the whole country in shock.

While the coastguard rescued 45 passengers, search teams continued to search for the others, but at least eight were confirmed dead. This caused a state of rage among the townspeople, some of whom attempted to storm an army barracks.

Since 2011, the start of the Syrian revolution, many Syrian refugees have tried to flee through Tripoli to the West. As their numbers began to dwindle, he was replaced by Lebanese from the impoverished city of Tripoli and the North in general. Many failed in their quest to reach Europe, some experiencing the same tragic fate as their compatriots.

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These migrant ships, called death boats, are not new. Other boats sank off the Lebanese coast in similar circumstances. But this time, the tragedy will have disastrous repercussions on the Lebanese Armed Forces and will make an already explosive political and economic crisis even more treacherous.

So far, many survivors of the sunken ship have claimed that the Lebanese Navy boats that were in pursuit were directly responsible for the sinking of the ship, as its captain rammed the hull and later the bow, resulting in its almost immediate sinking.

The commander of the Lebanese navy, and ironically from the city of Tripoli, justified the actions of his men by blaming the victims. He said the condition of the ship, an excessive number of passengers and the refusal to comply with warnings led to the tragedy, not the navy’s excessive use of violence.

People gather as an ambulance drives after a boat sank off the northern Lebanese port city of Tripoli, outside the port of Tripoli, Lebanon, April 23, 2022. (Reuters )

The tragedy of the death boats is an indicator of the catastrophic situation of the inhabitants of one of the poorest cities in the Mediterranean. Tripoli has been repeatedly abused by its political elite, many of whom are members of the Billionaires Club.

Coincidentally, current Prime Minister Najeb Mikati, a native of the city and one of its eight parliamentarians, is ranked fourth on the list of the ten richest Arabs. Some claim to have a combined fortune of over $6 billion with his brother.

Following the sinking of the migrant boat, the Lebanese began sharing photos of Mikati yachts parked in the south of France, each valued at over $100 million. Mikati’s alleged philanthropy usually surfaces around election time. Since he is not running for office, he has done nothing, both as a politician and as a native, to alleviate the suffering of the people.

Yet the crux of the matter is not that Mikati or his fellow politicians are corrupt or negligent when attacking the plight of the Lebanese people. It is that the political establishment has used the issue of illegal immigration to twist the arm of the West and Europeans for continued support for the establishment as a whole.

The Lebanese should understand the Navy’s violent use of force through a lens. Mikati and his cabinet will use the immigrant boat tragedy to raise funds and use that money from the international community and the International Monetary Fund to subjugate those who need it most.

What is even more alarming is the way the political elite, in coordination with the local media, has worked to portray the victims of migrants as criminals. Yet the leaders of the human trafficking network benefiting from these death cruises are allowed to roam the streets of Tripoli and enjoy the protection of Mikati and his people.

Just think how far desperate people are willing to go to escape the hell of the Lebanese crises and what it takes for a father to risk his children to escape poverty and starvation.

The people of Tripoli, like much of Lebanon, are victims of their own choice. By remaining silent in the face of the reckless endangerment of their lives by refusing to reform and instead restoring their criminal grip on the reins of power. Lebanon, as it is, is a great ship of death, steered by a race of politicians less forgiving and more deadly than a raging sea.

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The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not reflect the views of Al Arabiya English.

Earnest A. Martinez