Egypt boat capsize: 12 migrants die off Alexandria

More than 3,400 refugees have attempted to make an illegal crossing from Egypt over to Europe since August this year, according to the UNHCR.

At least 12 migrants have drowned and some 116 were rescued after their boat capsized near the Egyptian port of Alexandria, security officials said.

The boat sank early on Friday. The survivors, mostly Palestinians and Syrians, were taken to a naval base.

The incident comes a week after at least 319 migrants died when their boat sank off an Italian island.

Only 155 people survived the disaster near Lampedusa - divers are still searching for bodies there.

Alexandria's security chief, Amin Ezzeddin, told the BBC that the survivors of the latest incident included 40 Syrians, 72 Palestinians and four Egyptians.

Analysis

The latest tragedy off Alexandria underlines once again the desperation of Syrian and other refugees, prepared to pay large sums of money to risk their lives trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

In Alexandria, Syrian refugees say people smugglers take $6,500 (£4,100) each from those willing to attempt the perilous trip of around 1,500km (1,000 miles) across waters increasingly hazardous as winter approaches.

One Syrian refugee who made it to Italy recently said the Egyptian organiser abandoned the boat she was on two days from shore, leaving the craft adrift. Many others have said they would not have done it had they known the risks involved and the dubious boats used.

The Egyptian authorities are trying to stop the trafficking. Hundreds of Syrian refugees have been intercepted and detained, including entire families. They're being held in police stations in Alexandria in fairly relaxed conditions, before being deported by air to Jordan, Lebanon or Turkey.

They were initially taken to a naval base in the Alexandria district of Ras al-Tin and then to a police station.

Maritime surveillance

The accident follows another capsizing understood to have happened 10 days ago, also involving Syrians and Palestinians off the coast of Alexandria.

More than 3,400 refugees have attempted to make an illegal crossing from Egypt over to Europe since August this year, according to the UNHCR.

Many are Syrian and Palestinians escaping conflict in their countries.

The Lampedusa incident, in which the boat caught fire and capsized less than 1km (half a mile) from the island's shore has prompted an EU pledge 30m euros ($40m; £25m) to help refugees in Italy.

On Thursday the European Union also voted to launch a maritime surveillance system aimed at preventing further migrant disasters.

Ministers say the 35m-euros Eurosur programme, which includes plans to share data and use surveillance drones, should speed up the EU response to boats packed with migrants heading for Europe.

But opponents insist the bloc needs to provide safer ways for genuine refugees to enter Europe. They say the money would be better spent on increasing physical rescue capabilities.

Key migrant routes to southern Europe
Map of migrants routes

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