A vessel carrying an estimated 300 to 600 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Rashid, on Wednesday resulting in the death of at least 30 passengers according to the state-owned Middle East News Agency (MENA).
MENA reported that Egyptian coast guards were able to rescue more than 100 people from the overturned boat. Hundreds of the migrants who were travelling on the vessel remain unaccounted for, although MENA reports that search and rescue operations are ongoing.
Brigadier General Mohamed Khereissa, an official from the Beheira Governorate security directorate, told MENA that the vessel, said to be destined for Italy, had departed from the town of Borg Megheizal in the neighboring Governorate of Kafr al-Sheikh.
Citing hospital sources in Rashid, the privately owned CBC Extra channel reported that the death toll had risen to 39.
Several survivors and the bodies of migrants recovered thus far, reported to be primarily of African origin, have been transported to hospitals in Beheira and Kafr al-Sheikh. According to both Reuters and BBC the capsized vessel was carrying Egyptian, African and Syrian migrants.
On Tuesday another migration attempt was prevented off Egypt’s north coast. The Ministry of Defense website reported that 68 “infiltrators” were arrested after being apprehended in a small boat in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of the Matrouh Governorate, along with four Egyptian crew members. The passengers’ nationalities were not specified, and the ministry only reported that they were hoping to reach the shores of southern Europe.
After receiving medical attention, the “necessary legal measures” are being pursued. Such measures may include the deportation of the attempted migrants back to their countries of origin, a practice which violates international law — specifically the principle of non-refoulement.
On September 10 security forces from Kafr al-Sheikh thwarted another similar attempted sea voyage, allegedly involving 155 individuals, attempting to reach the shores of Italy. The Reuters-affiliate Aswat Masriya reported that the migrants were subsequently arrested, listing their nationalities as including 114 Egyptians, 13 Sudanese, 14 Somalis, nine Syrians, two from Sierra Leone, two from Guinea and one Liberian national.
According to estimated figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM,) as of May 31, 204,311 migrants have arrived in Europe via the Mediterranean Sea this year alone. Of these 2,443 are estimated to have drowned, or remain unaccounted for. The IOM approximates that a total of 1,011,712 migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea in 2015, and that over 5,350 of them died in life-threatening sea voyages to southern European countries, particularly Greece, Italy and, to a lesser extent, Spain and Cyprus.