Irregular Maritime Migration from Lebanon since 2019: Conflict, crisis and migration

© Pixabay

Lebanon’s state of crisis has rummaged the country since it began in 2019. The World Bank classified Lebanon's economic meltdown as one of the most severe global crisis episodes since the mid-nineteenth century. Additionally, the Fragile Country Index has now placed it as one of the most fragile states in the world, in the category “Alert”, just after Niger and before countries such as Venezuela and Palestine. The explosion in Beirut's port in 2020, which devastated several districts of the city, further exacerbated an already dire situation. This and other factors, explained in the joint report “Conflict, Crisis, and Migration: Maritime Irregular Migration from Lebanon Since 2019,” with our partners Ibrahim Jouhari and Dr. Jasmin Lilian Diab, have contributed to one of the largest diasporas that the small country in the Middle East has ever seen. With a Lebanese population of approximately 4.7 million and an estimated 16 million living abroad, these numbers reflect the extent of the crisis the country is facing.

On Friday the 29th of September, in a virtual gathering that transcended borders, we gathered our expert authors for a presentation of the report. MEP for Renew Europe, Jan-Christoph Oetjen, who detailed important issues that migrants face not only in Lebanon, but across the Mediterranean as well, also honoured us with an introduction of the topic.

Irregular maritime migration has become one of the most common methods used from Lebanese shores as an escape route out of the country, or the region in many cases. Indeed, Syrians and Palestinians fleeing from conflict and poverty often use Lebanon as their exit country for the promise and hope of better conditions in Europe. Our experts explained that a deal was recently signed between Lebanon and Cyprus, which agreed that Cyprus would repatriate all migrant aboard boats reaching their coast back to Lebanon. Since this was agreed, the island-nation has seen the number of maritime migratory attempts decrease. In the report, Mr. Jouhari and Dr. Lilian Diab provide and analyse extensively the data from a myriad of different sources on the attempts, highlighting interesting trends on popular seasons for migratory flows in this region of the Mediterranean. However, they argue that it is important to take the existing data with a grain of salt, as the real number of clandestine attempts can never be fully determined quantitatively, as they explained in more detail during the presentation.

A thorough reading of the entire report will also provide insights into the costs—financial, social, and emotional—associated with these attempts. With this, our researchers end the paper discussing their recommendations to translate into better, more humane and inclusive migration policies between Southern and Northern shores of the Mediterranean. Mr. Oetjen also discussed this, outlining plans that the Renew Europe group has in place to safeguard migrants. Especially with the recent international attention that this topic has been accruing, it seems even clearer that revisions of existing agreements at the international level, as well as legal migratory structures are needed to tackle the issue and ensure migrants’ safety in the Mediterranean. To know more about the topic, download our report and find out what Dr. Diab and Mr. Jouhari have identified regarding irregular Lebanese migration.