CAIRO, Egypt – Egyptian rescue workers have pulled out from the Mediterranean Sea the bodies of more than a hundred refugees whose boat recently capsized near the coast of Egypt.
A senior Egyptian official said on Friday that a total of 162 bodies had been pulled out from Egyptian waters. The vessel capsized on Wednesday.
Rescue and recovery operations were still underway, while the military said it had rescued 163 survivors, who are said to be mostly Egyptians, but also include a Syrian, as well as Sudanese, Eritreans, and an Ethiopian asylum seeker.
The survivors said about 450 refugees had been on board the overcrowded fishing boat that was heading toward Italy when it sank about 12 kilometers off the coast.
In this regard, authorities have arrested four suspected human traffickers.
Since 2014, according to the United Nations, more than 10,000 asylum seekers have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe in substandard vessels overloaded with desperate refugees.
The current year has been described by the United Nations as “the deadliest year on record in the Mediterranean Sea.”
The perilous sea route across the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt to Italy, which often takes more than 10 days, is just one of several routes used by asylum seekers.
After Balkan countries closed the popular overland route in March and the European Union reached a deal with Turkey to halt departures, asylum seekers from conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa have turned to new paths to reach Europe.
Frontex, an EU agency for the management of operational cooperation at the external borders, said in June that crossing from Egypt to Italy was becoming increasingly popular.