11 drown off Egypt's coast in failed illegal immigration attempt

Sunday 11-10-2015 03:32 PM
11 drown off Egypt's coast in failed illegal immigration attempt

The bodies of people who drowned when their boat capsized on its way to Italy, on Oct 10, 2015. ASWAT MASRIYA


CAIRO, Oct 11 (Aswat Masriya) - Egypt's border guards have recovered the bodies of 11, including two children and a woman, and rescued 20 attempting to immigrate illegally by sea to Italy on Saturday, the directorate of health in Kafr al-Sheikh said on Sunday.

Three of the survivors were injured and transferred to the Kafr al-Sheikh hospital for treatment, according to Aswat Masriya reporter in Kafr al-Sheikh citing health sources.

The remaining 17 survivors are being held in a security facility and are currently being interrogated by prosecutors in Kafr al-Sheikh.

Ahmed al-Ganzouri, the director of the ambulance authority in Kafr el-Sheikh, a northern Egyptian province overlooking the Mediterranean, said ambulances transported the bodies to the morgue.

About 40 people had boarded the motor-less boat, overcrowding it and causing it to capsize. 

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 attempting 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.

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

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

Smugglers in Egypt subject immigrants to humiliating conditions and treatment even before the journey begins, even locking them up for two to three days before the journey.

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. 

Risking their lives in 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, often crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. 

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), "6,584 migrants have perished in the Mediterranean" in the past two years and more than 3,000 died this year alone. 

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. 

As of October 9, more than 580,000 people had reached Europe illegally by sea in 2015, the vast majority of them landing in Greece, according to IOM. 

Egypt has drafted an anti-illegal immigration law that imposes up to five years imprisonment and a fine for human trafficking. 

The draft law stipulates a penalty of up to life in prison if the migrant dies or if the human trafficking network is linked to a terrorist organisation.

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