September 30, 2015 / 12:36 PM / 2 years ago

Lebanon arrests 40 Palestinians believed leaving for Europe

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese security forces arrested 40 Palestinians on Wednesday as they tried to leave by boat from the northern city of Tripoli for a journey toward Europe, the National News Agency said.

The group, which included men and women, was aiming to reach Germany and had come from the large, long-established Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon’s south, NNA said. The boat’s owner was also detained.

There was no immediate comment from Lebanese justice authorities, but it is an offense to enter Tripoli’s port area without a security clearance or ferry ticket.

In the past three months thousands of Syrian refugees from the neighboring country’s civil war have been leaving Tripoli on passenger ferries toward Turkey with the aim of reaching Europe, which is struggling to cope with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Lebanon has taken in over 1 million Syrian refugees, one of the highest number per capita in the world, and has increasingly become a transit point for Syrians trying to reach the European Union via Turkey.

The small eastern Mediterranean country has also long hosted tens of thousands of Palestinians who live in camps like Ain al-Hilweh that developed after Lebanon absorbed refugees from the war of Israel’s creation more than 60 years ago.

Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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