MIGRANT TRAGEDY. Egyptian rescue workers arrive on a boat carrying bodies of migrants, during a search operation in the Mediterranean, along the shore in the Egyptian port city of Rosetta on September 23, 2016. File photo by stringer/AFP
CAIRO, Egypt – An Egyptian court Sunday, March 26, sentenced 56 people to prison terms of between 7 and 10 years over the deaths at sea of at least 202 migrants in September, judicial officials said.
The charges they faced included manslaughter, negligence, using a boat for unlicensed purposes, endangering children, and organizing illegal immigration.
Twenty-five people were sentenced in absentia while 31 others were present in court, according to officials who requested anonymity because they were unauthorized to speak to reporters.
One person was acquitted in the trial, whose verdicts can be appealed, the officials said.
The boat, which was headed for Italy, sank off the Mediterranean port city of Rosetta on September 21.
Survivors said up to 450 migrants had been crowded aboard the fishing trawler when it keeled over, including an estimated 100 in its hold.
The Egyptian military said at the time that 163 people were rescued.
Most of those rescued were Egyptians but they also included migrants from Sudan, Eritrea, Syria, and Ethiopia, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.
Out of the different migrant routes to Europe, "the journey to Italy is particularly dangerous, with more deaths at sea in the Mediterranean recorded in 2016 than ever before," UNHCR said in February.
"Of the 5,096 refugees and migrants reported dead or missing at sea last year, 90% traveled along the sea route to Italy, amounting to one death for every 40 people crossing," it said.
Crossings to Italy have multiplied since an EU-Turkey deal announced in March 2016 aimed at halting the flow of migrants from Turkey into Greece, the UNHCR said in February.
Since then, "the Central Mediterranean route from North Africa to Italy has since become the primary entry point to Europe," the agency said.
According to UNHCR's latest figures, 593 people have either died or gone missing in the Mediterranean this year. – Rappler.com