Egypt court jails 56 over migrant shipwreck that killed 200

Individuals given prison sentences of up to 14 years over boat tragedy that killed 202 passengers last year

File photo: 56 people were convicted over a boat tragedy that killed more than 200 people.
File photo: 56 people were convicted over a boat tragedy that killed more than 200 people.

A court in Egypt has sentenced 56 people to prison terms of up to 14 years on Sunday over a boat that capsized last year, killing more than 200 onboard.

The incident, one of the deadliest disasters in the dangerous Mediterranean crossings of migrants to Europe, occurred off the Egyptian coast on 21 September 2016. Rescue workers and fishermen rescued at least 169 people but at least 202 died.

57 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 authorities and using a vessel without a licence.

One woman was acquitted.

The boat sank in the Mediterranean off Burg Rashid, a village in Egypt's northern Beheira province, where the sea and the Nile meet. It had been carrying Egyptian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali asylum-seekers and was believed to be heading for Italy.

One month after the boat sank Egypt's parliament passed legislation setting prison terms and fines for those found guilty of smuggling migrants, acting as brokers or facilitating migrants' journeys.

A record 5,000 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean last year, aid agencies have said. In the worst known incident, around 500 African migrants and their children died when a fishing boat capsized off Egypt's coast in April.

Since Turkey and the European Union reached an agreement a year ago to curb the flow of migrants and refugees sailing from Turkish shores to Greece, most migrant journeys have taken the more dangerous route from north Africa to Italy.

In Libya, people traffickers have operated with relative ease, but many migrants and refugees also set off from Egypt.