Egypt police halts illegal migration attempt to Italy

Lobna Monib, Thursday 30 Oct 2014

Nearly 20 Arab nationals - including 12 women and children - were trying to escape to Italy in a fishing boat off the coast of Alexandria

Illegal migration
Migrants sit in boats during a rescue operation by Italian navy. (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian authorities captured 17 Arab nationals attempting to illegally migrate to Italy from the coast of Alexandria on Thursday, the latest in a series of human smuggling incidents that have killed hundreds in the last year. 

The migrants were seized near Saraya Beach, a public beach in the coastal city, as they were preparing to cross the Mediterranean Sea towards Italy in a fishing ship, according to the police report on the incident, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website said.

Among the passengers were Palestinians, Syrians and Sudanese nationals, including 12 women and children. Each paid $1,600 for the trip, the report said.

Hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees fled to Egypt following the breakout of the civil war in 2011. While the United Nations Refugee Agency says 140,273 are currently inside the country, the Egyptian foreign ministry put the number at 300,000, according to a statement in 2013.

Illegal migration from Egypt is becoming more attractive to Egyptians and refugees, with the unemployment rate rising to 13.6 percent and economic growth stagnating since a popular uprising ousted oresident Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Abu Hamada, a Syrian smuggler believed to be implicated in the drowning of 400 people in September, was involved in the migration attempt halted today, the police report said.

On 10 September, a ship carrying 400 reportedly illegal migrants of various Arab nationalities sank in the Mediterranean, leaving at least 392 dead. The victims were mostly Palestinians fleeing Gaza after the 50-day Israeli offensive on the besieged strip.

A statement by the Palestinian embassy in Greece, published 15 September, said that the migrants' ship was hit intentionally by an Egyptian ship owned by other smugglers in what the embassy described as a "competition between the gangs of death and smuggling". Survivors attributed the deliberate drowning to disagreements between the smugglers.

Only 8 of the passengers survived the incident, three of which were rescued by a passing Greek commercial ship, as mentioned in the embassy's statement, while others were saved by Italian and Asian ships.


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