BEIRUT, Lebanon — A UN peacekeeping force rescued 36 people, mostly Syrians, and recovered the body of a passenger from a boat off the Lebanese coast on Monday, according to the UN refugee agency.
The destination of the boat was not immediately clear, but Lebanon and neighboring Cyprus have reported several migrant vessels trying to leave the Middle Eastern country in recent weeks.
A UNIFIL “ship located at sea outside Lebanese territorial waters a boat with 37 people inside. Unfortunately, one of them had already passed away,” it said in a statement, without providing details on the cause of death.
It said the survivors were given medical treatment onboard the UNIFIL ship.
A spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency said 25 of the migrants were Syrians, eight Lebanese, and the remaining three of other nationalities.
“They arrived this afternoon at the port of Beirut and were taken in charge by the Lebanese Red Cross, UNHCR and the Lebanese authorities,” UNHCR’s Lisa Abou Khaled said.
“Some were transferred to hospital, while we distributed food, water, and clothes” to the others, she added.
The Lebanese army on September 8 said it had prevented a group of Syrians and Lebanese from illegally leaving by sea from the northern city of Tripoli.
Cyprus the day before had said it would send a team to Lebanon to help authorities stop boats with migrants heading for the Mediterranean island just 160 kilometers (100 miles) away.
At least five boats carrying over 150 migrants had been spotted off the coast of the island in previous days.
Lebanon, which hosts around 1.5 million people displaced from neighboring war-torn Syria, is in the grips of its worst economic crisis in decades.
UNIFIL was set up in 1978 to patrol the border between Lebanon and Israel which remain technically at war.