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Egypt court sentences 56 people to prison over migrant boat mass drowning

Ahram Online , Sunday 26 Mar 2017
People gather on the quay as a wreck of a migrant boat raised by the Egyptian navy and maritime rescuers arrives in the Egyptian port city of Rosetta on September 27, 2016. (AFP)

An Egypt misdemeanour court handed on Sunday jail sentences to 56 people over a 2016 migrant boat capsizing disaster off Egypt's Mediterranean coast that left around 200 people dead.

A Rosetta court in the northern Beheira province handed sentences ranging from two to 13 years to the convicted and acquitted one woman.

The convicted were found guilty of manslaughter, negligence, endangering lives, using a vessel without a license and not using adequate rescue equipment.

The defendants can still appeal their sentences.

The migrant boat, which was carrying several hundred migrants of different nationalities, sailed from Egypt's Mediterranean port city of Rosetta and was heading to Italy before it capsized 12 kilometres off the Egyptian coast. The accident was one of the deadliest incidents involving migrants attempting a journey to Europe for better opportunities and living standards.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), more than 5,000 migrants are thought to have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016, a record figure the organisation described as “a devastating milestone.” 

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.

In November, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi ratified a law aimed at curbing irregular migration and cracking down on human smuggling.

While the legislation does not punish the migrants themselves, it imposes jail terms on those convicted of smuggling migrants or acting as brokers or facilitators.

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