Navy intercepts 14 Egyptians on illegal migration voyage to Italy

The Egyptian navy has intercepted 14 Egyptians as they attempted to illegally migrate to Italy, continuing its efforts to halt illegal migration to Europe.

The would-be migrants were stopped on the Mediterranean Sea, to the north of Rashid city, according to Armed Forces Spokesperson Mohamed Samir.

The naval forces intercepted a boat called "Gallab al-Khair" and found 14 Egyptian illegal migrants aged between 20 and 12, in addition to the boat's crew, said Samir. The suspects were transferred to the port of Abu Qir, where medical care was provided to them.

An investigation is being conducted into the attempt and those behind it.

Egypt as stepped up its efforts to curb illegal migration to Europe recently, partly in response to requests from European nations suffering from mass illegal migration from the Middle East region, particularly Syria.

Military and security forces are involved in ongoing operations to halt the flow of illegal migrants to Europe, conducting frequent raids and inspects on land and sea.

More than 1 million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe during 2015. Syrians made up the largest single group applying for asylum in the European Union in 2015, followed by people from Afghanistan and Iraq, according to figures from Eurostat. Egypt was not among the top 10 countries.

According to the UNHCR, around 136,000 people had crossed to Europe by sea in the first three months of 2016. The International Office of Migration reports that around 3,770 people died while attempting the sea crossing in 2015.

While it seeks to stem the flow of illegal migrants, Egypt has also been seeking to improve the lot of those Egyptians living abroad legally. In October, Immigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs Minister Nabila Makram announced plans to prepare a draft law on migration, to be presented to the current parliament. Abdel Shahid called on Egyptian expatriates to take part in discussing the bill through the ministry's official website.

The recently appointed minister had praised the president for creating a separate ministry for exaptriate affairs last year, although she said the move "came too late".

When asked in September how illegal immigration could be curbed, Makram replied: “We have to exert more effort in the field of promoting awareness among people that the countries they are heading to are not goldmines."

The minister said she supports asking countries targeted by illegal immigrants to legalize entry and residency. “That would form a burden on those governments, but, we would love to demand it,” said Makram.

In June, the head of the IOM, William L. Swing, said that the European market will need as many as 40 million migrants from countries like Egypt by 2050.

He said the organization would maintain its assistance for Egypt to help curb illegal migration, as well as to provide incentives, job opportunities and training for migrants inside Egypt.

However, Makram said she has reservations on dealing with the IOM, aserting that the international body has to work within the framework of Egyptian laws.

“We have some reservations concerning the IOM," the minister told Al-Masry Al-Youm. "That said, we will coordinate that matter with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the IOM is required to operate based on Egyptian laws.”

Egypt has been an IOM member state since 1990.

Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm

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