Fifteen Syrians freeze to death trying to flee to Lebanon

At least 15 Syrian men, women and children froze to death while trying cross from Syria into Lebanon, the UN has said. 

The group of Syrian were following a smuggling trail near the Masnaa border checkpoint between Syria and Lebanon when they were caught in a storm on Thursday. 

Several other members of the group, including a pregnant woman, were rescued by the Lebanese military and taken to hospitals. But at least 15 people died in the crossing and the death toll may rise further. 

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“The victims were trying to cross an arduous and rugged passage in freezing temperatures,” a spokesman for the UN High Commission on Refugees said. 

“These tragic deaths illustrate the desperation of those trying to reach safety in Lebanon, and remind us that the situation inside Syria remains very difficult and that people continue to take huge risks to cross to safety.”

Thousands of Syrians have fled since a recent intensification in fighting in IdlibCredit:
Alaa Fatravi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Lebanon took in around 1.5 million Syrian refugees at the height of the Syrian war, which began in 2011. 

Some of those refugees have returned home as the fighting in Syria has ebbed but others are still trying to flee the country. 

It is not known where the Syrians who froze to death were from but intensified fighting in the rebel-held province of Idlib has sent tens of thousands of people fleeing, most of them towards the Turkish border. 

Syrians wishing to enter Lebanon must prove to Lebanese authorities they have reason to be in Lebanon, such as property ownership, an embassy appointment, or a residency permit.

For many Syrians fleeing war in their country, securing residency or work permits is impossible. Many are in Lebanon illegally and face arrest if discovered.

The Lebanese military said it arrested two Syrians on smuggling charges related to the attempted crossing at Mansaa. 

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