Sunday 22 April 2018

At least 29 refugees drown as boat capsizes off Egypt

Migrants are seen onboard a vessel after they were rescued from an overcrowded dinghy by members of the German NGO Jugend Rettet during an operation in the Mediterranean Sea. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
Migrants are seen onboard a vessel after they were rescued from an overcrowded dinghy by members of the German NGO Jugend Rettet during an operation in the Mediterranean Sea. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Donna Ellwood

At least 29 people have drowned after a boat carrying migrants capsized off the Egyptian coast yesterday.

"The toll now is 29 dead and five injured," said Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed.

Another health ministry official, Adel Khalifa, confirmed the toll and said the dead included Egyptians and Sudanese and "other African nationalities".

Health Ministry official Alaa Osman claimed that 155 people have been rescued, but that bodies were still being found in the area.

Egypt's official news agency MENA said the boat had been carrying 600 people.

It capsized off the Mediterranean port city of Rosetta, according to police officials. Rosetta lies 65km from Alexandria.

Tens of thousands of Africans take the dangerous Mediterranean Sea route as a gateway to a better life in Europe, alongside those fleeing wars from Syria to Afghanistan. Smugglers often overload the boats, some of them scarcely seaworthy, with passengers who have paid for the journey.

The incident comes months after the head of the EU's border agency warned that growing numbers of Europe-bound migrants were turning to Egypt as a departure point for the perilous journey.

At the end of August, Italian naval ships and vessels from non-government groups plucked 6,500 refugees from the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya.

In boats too weak and technically unequipped for a voyage across the stretch of the Mediterranean to the shores of Italy, the migrants had set off with a bit of gasoline in the overcrowded vessels, hoping to make it at least 30km out to sea and reach awaiting rescuers.

More than 10,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, according to the UN.

Meanwhile, French police have used tear gas to force hundreds of migrants away from a road leading to the port of Calais, which is seen as a gateway to Britain.

Authorities said about 300 migrants from a makeshift camp known as "the Jungle" approached the road to Calais yesterday afternoon and dozens tried to enter the thoroughfare.

Local officials in the northern Pas-de-Calais region said migrants hurled objects at police officers, who then used tear gas to push them back.

A police officer received minor injuries and one person was arrested.

The clash came as workers have begun building a Britain-funded wall along the road to try to keep migrants from sneaking onto ferries crossing the English Channel.


Romanian border police have detained eight migrants, including four children, after they crossed the River Danube and tried to enter Romania.

Police said in a statement they found the group of six Iraqis and two Syrians near the Bistret border point in southwest Romania on Tuesday evening during a routine river patrol.

The statement yesterday said the group, aged from four to 33 years, crossed the Danube in two boats that a Bulgarian guide had given them. The river forms the border between Bulgaria and Romania.

The group told police they had paid between €1,750 and €3,000 to guides and were trying to reach Austria.

It was also reported yesterday that Hungarian prison inmates have ramped up their production of razor wire, working around the clock as Hungary prepares to build a second fence on the border with Serbia to keep out refugees and other migrants.

Razor wire manufacture at the prison in Marianosztra, northern Hungary, has increased from two shifts earlier this year, to three.

Besides its domestic use, Hungary has also sold or donated fence elements, including wire and steel posts, to other countries in the region, including Slovenia and Macedonia.

Human rights organisations, meanwhile, consider Hungary's fences erected last year as the first step in efforts by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government to dismantle the country's asylum system.

Hungary's Helsinki Committee says the fence, the closure of asylum centres and other measures are destroying the asylum system.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News