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Egypt migrant shipwreck death toll rises to 130

  • Published at 07:29 pm September 23rd, 2016
Egypt migrant shipwreck death toll rises to 130
The death toll from a migrant boat disaster off Egypt's coast climbed to 130 on Friday as rescuers recovered more bodies from the Mediterranean. The migrants' boat capsized nearly 12km from the Nile Delta port city of Rosetta. The UNHCR estimated that the boat was packed with some 450 people, while the state news agency MENA said earlier that the number might be as high as 600 and some 150 people, mostly Egyptians, survived. Survivors have said up to 450 migrants were on board the overcrowded fishing vessel that was heading to Italy from Egypt when it keeled over off the port city of Rosetta on Wednesday. Egyptian Health Ministry spokesperson Adel Khalifa said 75 more bodies had been retrieved on Friday, raising the death toll to at least 130. The military said it had rescued 163 survivors. Recovery attempts were continuing. [youtube id="Nz1yeu48Dk0"] Rescuers had said search operations would focus on the boat's hold where witnesses said around 100 people had been when the vessel flipped over. Authorities have arrested four suspected people traffickers over the tragedy, the latest in what the UN refugee agency expects to be the deadliest year on record for the Mediterranean. Prosecutors ordered the crew members jailed for four days while an investigation takes place. The rescued migrants have been released. Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail pledged the government's full support for the continuing rescue mission and said those responsible must be brought to justice. The military said in a statement it was conducting the rescue operation. The accident comes months after the EU border agency Frontex warned that growing numbers of Europe-bound migrants were using Egypt as a departure point for the dangerous voyage.   [caption id="attachment_17648" align="aligncenter" width="552"]An Egyptian mother reacts beside the body of her son who was on a boat carrying migrants which capsized off Egypt's coast, in Al-Beheira, Egypt on September 22, 2016 REUTERS An Egyptian mother reacts beside the body of her son who was on a boat carrying migrants which capsized off Egypt's coast, in Al-Beheira, Egypt on September 22, 2016 REUTERS[/caption]   Traffickers often use barely seaworthy vessels and overload them to extract the maximum money in fares from desperate migrants. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said most of those rescued were Egyptians but also included Sudanese, Eritreans, a Syrian and an Ethiopian. After Balkan countries closed the popular overland route in March and the EU agreed a deal with Turkey to halt departures, asylum-seekers turned to other ways to reach Europe. Frontex chief Fabrice Leggeri said in June that the crossing from Egypt to Italy, which often takes more than 10 days, was becoming increasingly popular. [caption id="attachment_17647" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Rescue workers carry the body of a victim on a stretcher after a boat carrying migrants capsized off Egypt's coast, in Al-Beheira, Egypt on September 22, 2016 Reuters Rescue workers carry the body of a victim on a stretcher after a boat carrying migrants capsized off Egypt's coast, in Al-Beheira, Egypt on September 22, 2016 Reuters[/caption] The UN refugee agency said on Friday that more than 4,600 non-Egyptians, many of them Sudanese and Ethiopians, had been arrested this year trying to depart from Egypt's northern coast. More than 10,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, according to the United Nations. At least 300,000 migrants have crossed the sea so far this year from various points of departure, the UN had said this week. The number is down from 520,000 in the first nine months of 2015. The European Union launched "Operation Sophia" last year to destroy smuggler boats that could be used to ferry migrants across the Mediterranean. Migrants who survived a shipwreck off the Greek island of Crete in June said their boat had set sail from Egypt. About 320 migrants and refugees drowned in that incident. Some 206,400 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean this year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). More than 2,800 deaths were recorded between January and June, compared with 1,838 during the same period last year. Some 1.3m migrants reached Europe's shores last year fleeing war and economic hardship, prompting bitter rows among European countries over how to share responsibility.

IOM: Migrant deaths at sea nears 2015 record

The UN's migration watcher says the death toll among people trying to reach Europe by the Mediterranean this year tops 3,500 and is "rapidly approaching" the record level set last year. IOM spokesman Joel Millman says its count includes at least 51 people who died following a boat capsizing off Rosetta, Egypt, this week. That figure was expected to rise considerably. [caption id="attachment_17646" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Migrants who were rescued from a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, Egypt on September 22, 2016 Reuters Migrants who were rescued from a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea are pictured in Al-Beheira, Egypt on September 22, 2016 Reuters[/caption] More than 300,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean this year, mostly arriving in Greece and Italy. More than a million crossed in all of 2015, but the rate of deaths is far higher this year. IOM has been recalculating its estimates of deaths on the Mediterranean last year, but currently believes that at least 3,675 people died on that sea in 2015.

UN criticises Macedonia's treatment

The UN's human rights chief has criticized Macedonia's treatment of migrants, calling on the country to end its "systematic policy of expulsion and detention." UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed particular concern Friday for 180 migrants living in the transit centres of Tabanovce near the Serbian border and Vinojug near the Greek border since being trapped by Balkan border closures in March. Zeid said there had been no assessment "of the necessity or proportionality of their de facto detention."

Miserable situation

Dozens of bodies, many decomposed, are being pulled out of the waters off the Egyptian coast three days after hundreds of migrants heading to Europe drowned when their overcrowded boat capsized. An Associated Press reporter in the Nile Delta city of Rosetta saw between 20 to 30 bodies early Friday morning brought in by fishing boats. Many of the dead are women and children who were unable to swim away when the boat sank. If they survive the perilous maritime journey, migrants this year face much tougher European Union border controls.