Authorities in Egypt reportedly deported 68 Palestinians to the Gaza Strip earlier this week, who had tried to travel to Europe via the port of Alexandria.
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Officials said the migrants, who were found by security forces in Alexandria, had hoped to reach Italy, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.
A court ruled that all 68 of the migrants should be deported to Gaza because they entered Egypt through smuggling tunnels. They were deported on Monday, Ma'an said.
Last month, Egyptian authorities detained 43 Palestinians who were trying to travel to Europe. On September 14, a vessel carrying some 500 migrants, including Palestinians capsized near Malta. Most of them died.
According to testimonies obtained by Haaretz, thousands of Palestinians have left the Gaza Strip for Europe using tunnels, traffickers and boats, after hostilities between Israel and Hamas began in July. These migrants left the Strip clandestinely, with the help of paid smugglers.
This year, some 13,000 migrants reached Europe by sea from Africa, most of them landing in Italy after being picked up by the Italian navy — and in some cases being saved from drowning. Most left from Libya, where a civil war is still raging. More than 2,500 migrants drowned or went missing in the Mediterranean this year trying to reach Europe, according to an Amnesty International report from earlier this month. All the victims, including those from the Gaza Strip, have left from North Africa.
Amnesty accused the European Union of ignoring the migrants’ plight. John Dalhuisen, the organization’s director for Europe and Central Asia, has called on European countries to send boats to pick up the migrants rather than leave them to the mercy of smugglers and the sea.