Egypt: two Syrian refugees shot dead while en route to Italy

As security forces try to foil illegal emigration attempts

19 September, 17:52

    (ANSAmed) - CAIRO, SEPTEMBER 19 - Security sources in the coastal city of Alexandria on Thursday confirmed the Egyptian Coast Guard has shot dead two Syrian refugees trying to leave illegally aboard a boat headed to Italy. Coast Guardsmen killed a man and a woman, wounding a second man, all of them Syrian, while firing into the air in order to intercept their boat, which was carrying 50 Syrians, 122 Palestinians, two Egyptians, one Moroccan and eight Egyptian crew members, a security communique said. The incident occurred on Tuesday, according to the English online edition of Al Ahram newspaper.

    Over the past month, Egypt has witnessed a rapid increase in illegal emigration attempts by Syrian and Palestinian residents due to a rise in anti-foreigner sentiment after the army ousted Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi, with some media accusing them of being Brotherhood supporters and participating in pro-Morsi sit-ins that were dispersed in a bloody August military crackdown.

    Another element pushing people to emigrate illegally is an increase in restrictive visa policies, Al Ahram said. Many attempt to travel from Alexandria to Italy - as documented in the almost daily chronicles of desperate landings and rescues off the coast of Sicily - and from there to the rest of Europe.

    The journey between Alexandria and Sicily takes 12-14 days and costs between 2,000 and 4,000 dollars per person. But many never make it past Egyptian waters, with a number of refugees reportedly drowning when their boats are intercepted by security forces, Al Ahram reported.

    There are 512 refugees currently being detained in Alexandria police stations, which are not equipped to deal with large numbers including women, children, the elderly, the injured and the sick, human rights lawyer Mahinour El-Masry told Al Ahram.

    ''Sometimes women and children are transferred to the police station's mosque and prayer rooms,'' El-Masry told the newspaper.

    Most of the detainees are not prosecuted but deported to Turkey, Lebanon or Syria. Those registered with the UNHCR are taken to Cairo, the lawyer explained. Palestinian refugees who fled Syria face the worst fate.

    They are deported back to Syria via Lebanon, El-Masry said, because there is no UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) office in Egypt. The last Palestinians deported to Syria after arrival in Beirut were arrested at the Damascus airport, he said.

    According to the latest UNHCR numbers, there are 105,153 registered Syrian refugees in Egypt and a further 19,220 awaiting registration.

    An estimated 4,600 Syrians reached Italy by sea in 2013 (against 400 in 2012), with two thirds of them landing in August alone, according to UNHCR.

    A total of 21,870 people of various nationalities have reached Italy since the beginning of the year through September 6, the UN agency said. This is a significant increase over 2012, when 7,981 people sought refuge in Italy. Of those who arrived in 2013, 5,778 were Eritrean (594 in 2012) and 2,571 were Somali (1,280 in 2012). (ANSAmed).

    © Copyright ANSA - All rights reserved