Lebanon stops 82 people attempting sea crossing to Europe
The Internal Security Forces (ISF) said they raided a "tourist resort" in the Qalamoun area of north Lebanon on Thursday after being tipped off, al-Nahar newspaper reported.
They found "82 people, including men, women, and children, who were planning to head to Europe via sea in an illegal manner for a fee of $5,000 per person," the statement said.
The statement did not specify their nationality or intended destination.
But the Republic of Cyprus, an EU member just 160 kilometres (100 miles) away, is a common destination for would-be migrants trying to flee Lebanon, which is mired in economic and political crisis.
The ISF said it arrested a 31-year-old Lebanese national who it identified as one of the smugglers behind the operation. It said further investigations are underway.
The number of people attempting to make deadly sea crossings out of Lebanon has surged since the country's financial crisis began in 2019.
Most of the would-be migrants are already refugees who fled the war in neighbouring Syria but an increasing number of Lebanese nationals are also attempting the perilous journey.
Around 80 percent of Lebanon's population is estimated to be living under the poverty line, as defined by international organisations.
The Lebanese pound has lost 90 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market.