Egypt Court Sends 56 to Jail Over Boat Sinking That Killed 202 Migrants

Since Turkey and EU reached an agreement last year to curb the flow of migrants and refugees sailing from Turkish shores, most migrant journeys now take the more dangerous route from north Africa.

People gathering 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, September, 2016.
STRINGER/AFP

 An Egyptian court sentenced 56 people to prison terms of up to 14 years on Sunday over the capsizing of a boat that killed over 200 people, one of the deadliest disasters in the dangerous Mediterranean crossings of migrants to Europe. 

The boat capsized off the Egyptian coast on September 21. Rescue workers and fishermen rescued at least 169 people, but at least 202 died. 

Fifty-seven people faced charges including causing the accidental death of 202 passengers, not using sufficient rescue equipment, endangering lives, receiving money from the victims, hiding suspects from authorities and using a vessel without a license. One woman was acquitted. 

The boat sank in the Mediterranean off Burg Rashid, a village in Egypt's northern Beheira province where the sea and the Nile meet. It had been carrying Egyptian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali migrants and was believed to be heading for Italy. 

One month after the boat sank Egypt's parliament passed legislation setting prison terms and fines for those found guilty of smuggling migrants, acting as brokers or facilitating migrants' journeys. 

A record 5,000 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean last year, aid agencies have said. In the worst known incident, around 500 African migrants and their children died when a fishing boat capsized off Egypt's coast in April. 

Egyptian men and policemen react upon the arrival of the bodies of migrants along the shore in the Egyptian port city of Rosetta, September 2016.
MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP

Since Turkey and the European Union reached an agreement a year ago to curb the flow of migrants and refugees sailing from Turkish shores to Greece, most migrant journeys have taken the more dangerous route from north Africa to Italy. 

In Libya, people traffickers have operated with relative ease, but many migrants and refugees also set off from Egypt.