Egypt's al-Sissi warns of illegal migration after boat tragedy

Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi on Monday called on his people to avoid risking their lives for overseas jobs after dozens of Egyptians died in the Mediterranean Sea last week in a migrant boat sinking.

The boat, carrying hundreds of migrants from different nationalities, capsized on Wednesday off Egypt's coastal town Rosetta.

One hundred and seventy-eight bodies have been retrieved so far, state-run newspaper al-Ahram reported.

"I tell everyone that our country needs its people," al-Sissi said in his first public comment on the boat disaster.

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 this country of 91 million people.

Tightening control on Egypt's 5,000-kilometre-long border requires "huge efforts," al-Sissi added in his televised remarks.

"Society should join hands with the state in confronting illegal migration operations," he said.

There were conflicting reports about the exact number of people the boat had been carrying. 

Some Egyptian media, citing survivors, said that there were around 500 people on board, despite the ship's capacity of 150.

They reportedly included Eritreans, Somalis, Syrians and Sudanese nationals.

A total of 164 people were rescued from the boat, according to Egyptian officials.  

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

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

Last update: Mon, 26/09/2016 - 15:21
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