Some 33 bodies were recovered on Tuesday when Egyptian authorities raised the wreck of a migrant boat that sunk off the country's north coast last week, a Health Ministry official said.

The grim discovery takes the total toll of the shipwreck to 202, according to figures provided by ministry spokesman Khaled Mogahed.

The tragedy has stirred debate in Egypt about the poor economic prospects that have led mainly young men to risk their lives on dangerous illegal sea crossings to Europe.

President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi on Monday called on Egyptians to avoid illegal migration, saying: "I tell everyone that our country needs its people."

Some Egyptian media have quoted survivors as saying that there were around 500 people crammed onto the small fishing vessel.

A total of 164 people have been rescued since Saturday, according to officials.

Eritrean, Somali, Syrian and Sudanese citizens as well as Egyptian nationals are reported to have been among the passengers.

Police have arrested a fisherman and his mother in the northern province of Beheira in connection with the accident, as well as four crew members. 

Local media reports said the mother-son duo was arrested for using their fishing boat to ferry migrants from the shore to the ship before its fatal journey.

In recent years, Egypt has seen an increase in migrants trying to travel across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.

Regional turmoil and high unemployment rates are believed to be the main motivating factors for the risky journeys.

Egypt's economy has been in decline since the unrest that followed the 2011 uprising.

Unemployment is officially estimated at nearly 13 per cent in the country of 91 million people.

Al-Sissi promised that a "comprehensive project" would soon be completed near the area of the shipwreck providing thousands of jobs, especially for young people.

Egypt also lies on migration routes from war-torn Sudan and Somalia, as well as from Eritrea where many citizens seek to escape a repressive regime and indefinite terms of compulsory military service.

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