Egypt naval forces foil illegal immigration of 238 heading to Italy

Sunday 25-10-2015 06:31 PM
Egypt naval forces foil illegal immigration of 238 heading to Italy

Egyptian naval forces prevent an illegal immigration attempt off the coast of Kafr El-Sheikh to Italy, on Oct. 25, 2015. Armed forces handout


CAIRO, Oct. 25 (Aswat Masriya) - Egypt's navy thwarted an illegal immigration attempt on Sunday, preventing 100 Egyptians and 138 others from taking a risky and potentially deadly journey across the Mediterranean to Italy. 

A statement by the armed forces said that the Port Said naval base was notified that a suspicious fishing boat was attempting to smuggle people off the coast of Kafr El-Sheikh. 

When naval forces searched the boat, they found 238 people. The boat was taken to Damietta Port where they received medical care before being handed over to prosecutors who will decide on ensuing legal procedures. 

Egypt's prosecutors view attempting illegal immigrants as victims of traffickers and are released after interrogation. But while non-Egyptians are also released, authorities retain the right to deport them. According to Aswat Masriya sources, many of them have been deported.

Earlier this month, Egypt's border guards recovered the bodies of 11, including two children and a woman, and rescued 20 attempting to immigrate illegally by sea to Italy, also off the coast of Kafr El-Sheikh. 

Throughout 2015 up to the first week of October, 57 illegal immigration attempts have been thwarted by Egyptian authorities in Kafr al-Sheikh alone, preventing an estimated 2,250 people from embarking on the potentially fatal journey.

The province is a preferred route for illegal transfers because it takes merely four days of travelling due north in a vertical line to reach Italian islands.

Smugglers charge no less than $5,000 for the journey, the equivalent of which can be paid in Egyptian pounds by Egyptians but other nationalities are forced to pay in dollars. 

Yet, despite the booming illegal trade, as little as three to five smugglers have been arrested this year. Many smugglers use false identities making it difficult to find them. Even if they are caught, smugglers are tried in a misdemeanours court which stipulates prison terms of one to five years, depending on their role and their level of involvement in the network. 

While the Mediterranean has been used by smugglers as one of the main routes for almost a decade, this year has recorded a massive surge in the number of people embarking on the dangerous journey. 

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), nearly 681,000 have arrived to Europe by sea in 2015 and 3,175 have either died or gone missing, as of Oct. 23. 

Despite the risk of the hazardous, often deadly journies, asylum seekers from different parts of the Middle East are resorting to illegal immigration to escape civil war or in search of a better life, crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. 

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