A boat carrying almost 600 people capsized off Egypt’s coast, killing at least 43, in the latest disaster among migrants trying to reach Europe, reported Reuters.
The boat sank in the Mediterranean Sea off Burg Rashid, a village in the northern Beheira province. Officials said 31 bodies had been found, 20 men, 10 women and one child.
Rescue workers have so far saved 154 people, officials said, meaning about 400 could still be missing.
A senior security official in Beheira said, “Initial information indicate that the boat sank because it was carrying more people than its limit. The boat tilted and the migrants fell into the water,”
The boat had been carrying Egyptian, Sudanese, Eritrean, and Somali migrants, officials said.
At a coastguard checkpoint in Burg Rashid, where the Mediterranean meets the Nile, dozens gathered, anxiously waiting for news of missing relatives.
It was not immediately clear where the boat had been heading. Officials said they believed it was going to Italy.
In fact, many people are trying to cross to Italy from the African coast over the summer months, from Libya and Egypt where people-traffickers operate with relative impunity.
In June, 320 migrants and refugees drowned off the Greek island of Crete. Migrants who survived told authorities their boat had set sail from Egypt.
According to the International Organization for Migration, some 206,400 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean this year.
Between January and June, more than 2,800 deaths were recorded compared with 1,838 during the same period last year.
last year, 1.3 million migrants reached Europe’s shores fleeing war and economic hardship, prompting bitter rows among states over how to share responsibility.
If they survive the perilous maritime journey, migrants this year face stronger EU border controls.
An Egyptian fisherman, Mohamed Nasrawy, said he knew seven people on the shipwrecked vessel, two of whom were still missing. He made an abortive effort to travel to Greece a year ago.
But despite the disastrous accident, he said “Look how this incident has shocked people, but tonight more people are going to set sail.”
“The poverty that they are living in is what is pushing them. Although we are not Europeans, they take good care of people, while our country doesn’t.”
Recently, Egypt has become one of the dangerous spots used by migrants to sneak to European borders. Bigger boats are increasingly setting out from Egypt for sea voyages of up to 10 days toward Italy, as the EU, NATO and Turkish coast guard tighten controls in the Aegean Sea. The coastline near the port city of Alexandria is a preferred jumping off point.
In Egypt, smugglers often use old fishing boats for the long journey to Italy. Many passengers are crammed below deck, with little chance of surviving if the boat sinks.
The tragedy is part of a growing human trafficking problem in Egypt.The Egyptian government has failed in resolving this phenomena that threatens the hundreds of lives daily. According to UN data,” thousands of people have lost their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean, with nearly 3,000 dead or missing in the first eight months of this year.”