Death toll from capsized migrant boat off Egypt crosses 200

Uncertainty still remains about how many people from the vessel might still be missing. 2016 has been the deadliest year for refugees and migrants.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

The wreck of the migrant boat raised by the Egyptian navy and maritime rescuers was towed to the city of Rosetta.

At least 33 more bodies were recovered after a ship capsized last week off the Egypt’s coast, carrying hundreds of migrants. The death toll has now increased to 202, a local official said.

Rescue workers and fishermen said 169 people have rescued since September 21, but uncertainty remains how many might still be missing.

Regional governor Mohamed Sultan says the death toll was now “almost final” but rescuers still searching in the area.

Rescue workers carry the body of a victim on a stretcher after a boat carrying migrants capsized off Egypt's coast, in Al-Beheira, Egypt, September 22, 2016. [Reuters]

However, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) believes 450 people were aboard the vessel and that about 300 perished in all.

"We are concerned about what this says for the rest of the season as the weather turns cold and seas get more difficult," IOM spokesman Joel Millman said on Tuesday.

Egyptian security sources initially said there had been almost 600 migrants aboard.

Fifteen members and owner of the boat arrested, security chief Alaa el Din Shawky said on Wednesday.

It is believed the final destination of the boat, which were carrying Egyptian, Sudanese, Eritrean and Somali migrants, was Italy.

The incident comes months after the head of the EU's border agency warned that growing numbers of Europe-bound refugees were turning to Egypt as a departure point for the perilous journey.

Military boats transported bodies of victims after the vessel carrying migrants capsized off Egypt's coast in Al Beheira, Egypt, September 22, 2016. [Reuters]

Smugglers often overload the boats, some of them scarcely seaworthy, with passengers who have paid for the journey.

More than 10,000 people have died crossing the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, according to the UN.

With the closure of the Balkans route popular with refugees seeking to reach northern European countries, as well as an EU deal with Turkey to halt departures, asylum seekers have been turning to other options.

Deadliest year for refugees

More than 300,000 refugees have crossed the Mediterranean so far this year from various points of departure, the UN said this week.

The number is down from 520,000 in the first nine months of 2015.

Despite the lower numbers attempting the dangerous sea crossing, fatality rates have risen, with 2016 on track to be "the deadliest year on record in the Mediterranean Sea," said the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

TRTWorld and agencies