A new dark face of the horrific “Boats of Death” that carried 200 desperate emigrants from Lebanon through the Mediterranean toward Cyprus last week has come to light.
According to a human rights watchdog, Cypriot authorities mistreated and used coercive tactics against the asylum-seekers who reached Cyprus aboard boats earlier in September, after denying them asylum.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Cypriot marine police of threatening and beating some migrants, and even attempting to swamp their boats in some instances.
The coast guard boats circled the “Death Boats” at high speeds in an attempt to swamp them and abandoned one of them alone at sea, without food or fuel, according to HRW.
The accusation was made after HRW conducted interviews with 15 Lebanese and Syrians who had tried to reach Cyprus aboard 7 of these boats on separate occasions between August and September from Tripoli, North Lebanon.
Witnesses and victims told the organization that marine police handcuffed and beat people who resisted being returned to sea.
One Lebanese national even accused the police of using a cattle prod on him after he shouted at them to help a couple who had jumped off the boat they were on.
Following the tragic deaths caused by these illegal sea crossings, the Lebanese authorities pledged to take extra security measures to prevent them from happening again.
Cyprus recently said that it was coordinating with Lebanon to return migrants arriving on its land in accordance with international law.
On its part, HRW urged Cypriot authorities to investigate the cases of mistreatment of migrants and to take action against those revealed to have committed these acts against the asylum-seekers and refugees.
In recent months, Lebanon has seen a spike in emigration, with many people escaping the debilitated economy and the political corruption that has brought the country down to an unprecedented low.