A court in Egypt has sentenced 56 people to prison terms of up to 14 years over a boat that capsized last year, killing more than 200 onboard.
The incident occurred off the Egyptian coast on 21 September 2016 and about 170 passengers were rescued. 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 the authorities and using a vessel without a licence. One woman was acquitted.
The boat sank in the Mediterranean off Burj Rashid, a village in Beheira province, northern Egypt, where the sea and Nile river meet. It had been carrying Egyptians, Sudanese, Eritreans and Somalis, and was believed to be heading for Italy.
A month after the boat sank, Egypt’s parliament passed legislation setting out prison terms and fines for those found guilty of smuggling migrants and refugees, acting as brokers or facilitating journeys.
A record 5,000 people drowned in the Mediterranean last year, aid agencies have said. In one incident, about 500 adults and children died when a fishing boat capsized in April 2016.
Since Turkey and the EU reached an agreement a year ago in an effort to reduce the number of migrants and refugees attempting to travel from Turkey to Greece, most sea crossings have taken the more dangerous route from north Africa to Italy.—Agencies