Lebanon-Syria: Smuggling and sanctions, the new front line

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Despite being on the brink of collapse, the Lebanese economy is keeping a troublesome neighbour afloat: Bashar al-Assad's Syria. In order to dodge international sanctions on the Assad regime – notably the US-imposed Caesar Act – products such as food and petrol are being smuggled across the border into Syria on a massive scale. Our reporters James André and Mayssa Awad investigated a phenomenon that costs the Lebanese economy several million euros a day and prevents the international community from coming to its aid.

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Hermel is a Lebanese city located north of the Bekaa valley, 150 kilometres from the capital Beirut. Officially, the border with neighbouring Syria is closed because of the coronavirus. But in this region, all types of products are smuggled, especially those subsidised by the Lebanese state (such as fuel, medicine and staple food) and smugglers risk few consequences.

In the capital, the Lebanese pound has collapsed (it hit an all-time low in March 2021) and people are angry. Every day, groups of protesters block the roads. Across the country, from Hermel to Beirut, the impact of cross-border smuggling exacerbates an already dire situation amid corruption, a political crisis and capital flight.

>> In crisis-hit Lebanon, Hezbollah opens supermarkets for eligible shoppers

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