Egypt's parliament on Monday voted to pass a cabinet bill combating "illegal migration" and human-smuggling, state news agency MENA reported.
The 34-article bill stipulates a penalty of between EGP 50,000 and EGP 200,000 or a prison sentence, without specifying the duration, to anyone who smuggles migrants, attempts to smuggle them, mediates in the smuggling process, or provide any services while aware of the crime.
The bill, which was drafted by the cabinet last year and passed by 402 parliamentary votes, includes a definition of the crime of people-smuggling and various related elements such as smugglers, unaccompanied children, fraudulent travel documents, the types of ship involved and the territorial waters where it occurs.
In recent years, thousands of migrants and refugees from a variety of countries have attempted to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe, with an increasing number departing via smugglers' boats from Egypt's northern coast.
On 21 September, a migrant boat destined for Italy capsized just off the coast of the Egyptian city of Rosetta due to overcrowding, leading to the deaths of at least 204 people.
One article in the draft law stipulates hard labour and/or fines of between EGP 200,000 and EGP 500,000 if suspects start, manage, hold a position in or are a member of an organised group that aims to smuggle illegal migrants.
This penalty also applies to smugglers in possession of a weapon, those who are public employees, and those who have previous felonies.
A life sentence is reserved for smugglers who aim to execute a terrorist attack by smuggling illegal migrants, those who cause the death or disability of an illegal migrant while transporting them, those who smuggle women or children, and those who use fake documentation to create new identities for the migrants.
The law establishes a national anti-illegal migration and human trafficking committee that will include representatives from all concerned ministries and research centres. It will provide training on how to combat illegal migration and operate a unit to document progress in combating the phenomenon.
An anti-illegal migration fund will also be set up to provide financial assistance to victims by the law. The fund will be under the purview of the prime minister and will begin operating on 30 June 2017.
The bill was submitted to the parliament in June before the end of the first legislative session, but was only approved by parliamentary committees on 28 September.
In October, Egypt agreed with Cyprus and Greece to work on stopping the flow of irregular migrants during a tripartite summit held in Cairo between the leaders of the three countries saying that the solution should not be limited to security measures and deportation.
After the shipwreck last month, President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi said that “[the smugglers] violated Egyptian and international law... taking advantage of the people's lack of awareness amid regional and international circumstances that make Egypt a transit point for illegal immigration."
Egyptian security forces say they have foiled numerous irregular migration attempts in recent months.