BAB AL-TABBANEH: Residents of Tripoli’s Bab al-Tabbaneh blamed Sunday the Lebanese government’s negligence on security, stability and living conditions for a recent boat tragedy in Indonesian waters that left several residents from the impoverished neighborhood dead.
More than 30 people were still missing two days after a boat carrying asylum seekers to Australia sank off the Indonesian coast, killing 29 people, 26 of them Lebanese, Indonesian security officials said Sunday.
The circumstances of the incident remain unclear, and relatives of survivors tell varying stories. Some claim the boat ran out of fuel, while others maintain that Australia failed to help the immigrants.
Ahmad Abdo, the father of one of the missing, said his 24-year-old son, Mustafa, borrowed $10,000 from his friends to pay for the trip that was offered by an office run by members of the Teeba and Abu Saleh families.
“My son is one of the good young boys who sought to live in peace. The economic and security problems we have suffered through forced him to emigrate and look for peace of mind,” Abdo said.
Addressing politicians and officials in Lebanon, the 70-year-old father said: “You should look after your people and your country, and enough of your disputes.”
He also said he tried to convince his son on several occasions not to make the trip.
“What else could I have done? My son ran away from hunger and worries ... but he chose to search for a job to help me and now his fate is unknown,” Abdo said.
“I ask the Lebanese authorities to help me learn his fate. If he is dead then let it be, and if he is alive then we should know his whereabouts. Not knowing is a tragedy we can’t bear.”
Mustafa’s mother still hoped for good news.
“I await good news about my son and at the same time I hold the Lebanese state responsible for the tragedies we suffer from. Stop trifling with our fate. Amid such circumstances it’s only normal for our youngsters to do what they did,” she said.
Other relatives of victims accused a man called Abu Saleh, an Iraqi smuggler who is allegedly responsible for Friday’s trip, of deciding to sink the boat so that he would not have to offer those aboard refunds.
Ahead of the sinking, the boat had been barred from reaching Australia.
Ali al-Ghamrawi, the brother of newly married and pregnant Mariam Ghamrawi who drowned and whose husband survived, said: “My sister and her husband fled the bad circumstances here and they wanted a secure place for their children. Her husband called us from the hospital crying, and he couldn’t give us any details.”
“We hold the state bodies responsible for the ignorance and for not shouldering their responsibilities toward their citizens. Here in Tabbaneh we live one day of war followed by a day of peace. There are no job opportunities, which makes a lot of us emigrate to make a new life,” he added.
Khodr al-Hraz’s brother Omar, 35, survived the accident. But Omar’s wife and children weren’t so lucky.
“My brother traveled with his wife and three children because of the circumstances that we live in in Tabbaneh. I think the reason he insisted on the immigration was the chaos here, the spread of arms and recurrent rounds of violence between Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. That’s why we hold the state bodies responsible.”
As for what had occurred at sea, Hraz said: “We knew that they ran out of diesel on their arrival near Australian waters and I think that the Iraqi ‘big boss’ Abu Saleh gave orders to drown the boat so that he wouldn’t have to give money back to the passengers.”