The death toll of the sunken boat transporting illegal migrants has increased to 202, the Beheira governorate announced on Wednesday. Search and rescue teams recovered 33 bodies from inside the boat’s onboard refrigeration storage after the vessel was brought to the surface on Tuesday.
Of the total number of deceased, 92 were allowed to be buried after their families identified them, while 111 corpses remain unidentified. Rescue forces managed to identify 18 Egyptians from the 33 bodies found inside the boat, official spokesperson for the Beheira governorate Wahdan El-Sayed told Daily News Egypt on Wednesday.
The government said that the boat was found 12km offshore from Rashid. It was recovered by naval forces.
“The 33 bodies were found in the boat’s onboard refrigeration storage for fish, as they failed to escape and consequently died inside,” El-Sayed clarified.
These bodies were transferred to hospitals in Alexandria, Beheira, and Kafr Al-Sheikh. The 111 unidentified bodies are being kept in mortuaries in these locations, according to El-Sayed.
Moreover, security apparatuses in Beheira governorate succeeded in arresting 15 “crew and dealers” who facilitated the trafficking operation using the fishing boat.
According to state-run news agency MENA, the defendants confessed that they had participated in the trafficking operation and received money from the migrants in return for illegally transporting them to Italy.
Three parliamentary committees gathered on Tuesday for a meeting on the new illegal immigration law, which comes in response to this tragedy.
The committees for legislation, foreign affairs, and planning and budget conducted a 5-hour meeting to draft the 34-article law.
“The law tackles the system for fines and toughens the penalties against traffickers, smugglers, and dealers involved in the process,” undersecretary of the Foreign Affairs Committee MP Dalia Youssef told the Daily News Egypt
“The law doesn’t mention any punishment that is applicable to the migrants, as Egypt abides by international agreements that protect migrants and immigrants from being punished or fined for travelling illegally,” the MP clarified.
The committees also decided to establish a National Committee to Combat Illegal Immigration under the supervision of the cabinet, which is also funding the cause. The committee will specialise in policies to prevent illegal immigration and its repercussions.
One week ago, a boat packed with nearly 400 illegal immigrants capsized on its way to Italy; many Egyptians drowned as well as other nationalities. It was only on Tuesday that the boat was announced to have been fully pulled out of the water.
In November, the cabinet had approved the illegal immigration law which stipulated a fine of EGP 50,000-200,000 or a prison sentence (without specifying the duration) to anyone who traffics illegal immigrants, attempts to traffic them, or mediates in the trafficking process.
Another article stipulated hard labour and a fine of EGP 200,000-500,000 if suspects started, managed, held a position in, or were a member of an organised group that aims to traffic illegal immigrants. The undersecretary of the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee said that the newly drafted law has nothing to do with the one issued last year.
The drafted law will be voted on by the parliamentary general assembly on 4 October.
Additional reporting by Leena El-Deeb