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Court sentences 56 people in relation to migrant boat disaster off coast of Rashid
Survivors of the Rashid boat tragedy / Mostafa Shimi - Courtesy: Mostafa Shimi
 

A court in the Nile Delta handed 56 people lengthy prison sentences on Sunday for their involvement in human trafficking leading to the deaths of over 200 people off the coast of Rashid in September.

The tragedy occurred when an overloaded fishing boat carrying over 300 people destined for the southern shores of Italy capsized.

The defendants, 25 of whom were sentenced in absentia, were convicted of wrongful death, operating fishing vessels without proper licenses and fraudulent activity, among other charges. One defendant was acquitted in the case.

The number of fatalities reported in the Rashid boat case varied from 202 to 204, and included men, women and children of differing nationalities, including Egyptians, Syrians, Eritreans and Sudanese nationals, along with a few people of other African origin.

Rescue efforts, which were highly criticized by locals for being delayed, saved 165 people.

The 56 defendants reportedly include the owners and crew members of the boat and those involved in organizing the perilous voyage.

The boat that capsized was named “Al-Rizk Be Izn Allah,” and was reached via two feeder boats, Ghazal al-Gadeeda and Al-Hagg Fathy Abdeen, from the village of Borg Megheizal in Kafr al-Sheikh.

The three owners of the boats were sentenced to 10 years in prison for wrongful death and three years for trafficking, along with a LE20,000 fine, according to the privately owned Al-Shorouk newspaper. The other 53 defendants were handed prison sentences ranging from two to 10 years.

The owner of Ghazal al-Gadeeda Samha, Shamekh Attia, was acquitted of all charges.

The town of Rashid is Egypt’s most widely used point of departure for people hoping to cross the Mediterranean Sea to southern Europe, particularly Italy and Greece.

More than 4,600 people were arrested in Egypt in 2016 in relation to illegal migration activity, including smugglers and those attempting to cross the sea, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, with Egypt’s Defense Ministry putting the figure at closer to 6,000.

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