Last October 26, dozens of people attempted to leave Lebanon to get to Italy without success. Ahmad, a goldsmith in Lebanon’s coastal town of al-Mina, said that he knew it was time to go when he could no longer operate his machines due to protracted electricity cuts.
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"I sold all of my equipment and decided to leave," 25-year-old Ahmad said to Al Jazeera. As some friends made the perilous boat journey from the northern city of Tripoli, reaching Italy, they induced him to do the same.
Lebanese and Syrians are migrating, given that a significant percentage of the population is living in poverty, the fuel shortages forcing power plants to shut and the value of the currency plunging with no end in sight. According to Ahmad's statements, he was one of 82 Lebanese and Syrians who boarded a fishing boat last October and sailed far out to sea. But the ship never reached its destination.
Al Jazeera interviewed three passengers but decided not to reveal their names, as they feared jeopardizing their chances of migrating. It is said that the migrants have suffered from illegal pushbacks and arbitrary detention, which human rights organizations labeled as an increasingly common tool to keep migrants out of Europe.
According to what a passenger told Al Jazeera, they were all relatives, friends and neighbors who sold their belongings to buy the supplies they needed for the trip. Once at sea, the group drifted at sea for three days after a storm damaged the ship's engine.
They decided to try to dock at the Greek island of Kastellorizo to fix the boat. "We contacted the coastguard and asked for permission," recalled one of the members. "They told us we were welcome and even asked if they could help us with anything."
After the Coast Guard ship approached, in what the group confused with help, the officer took their belongings and cellphones and the ones that refused to obey were beaten. The Officials held the group into a small and cold room.
Greek authorities denied the serious accusations. “We must emphasize that the operating practices of the Greek authorities have never included such actions,” the Greek Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy said in a statement to Al Jazeera.