Boat capsize off Egyptian coast: 148 bodies fished out
The death toll from a migrant boat disaster off Egypt’s coast climbed to 148 on Friday as rescuers recovered more bodies from the Mediterranean Sea.
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.
“The death toll from the illegal migrant boat that capsized off the coast of Rosetta... has reached 148,” the health ministry said in a statement.
The military said it had rescued 163 survivors. Recovery attempts are continuing. Rescuers had said that search operations would focus on the boat’s hold, where witnesses said around 100 people were present when the vessel flipped over.
Authorities have arrested four suspected traffickers for the tragedy, the latest in what the UN refugee agency expects to be the deadliest year on record for the Mediterranean.
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.
Traffickers often use barely seaworthy vessels and overload them to extract the maximum money in fares from desperate migrants.
The International Organization for Migration 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 over 10 days, was becoming increasingly popular.
The UN refugee agency said on Friday that over 4,600 non-Egyptians, many of them Sudanese and Ethiopians, had been arrested this year trying to depart from Egypt’s northern coast.