Egypt: 36 migrants missing, 3 dead in boat sinking

AP News
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Posted: Aug 27, 2012 10:42 AM

CAIRO (AP) — Three bodies washed ashore in Libya Monday after a boat carrying illegal Egyptian migrants trying to reach Europe capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, and officials say 36 people are missing.

The boat's only known survivor, Mohamed Gomaa Abdel-Kader, 23, told authorities that 40 people were on the boat when it sank. They were traveling overnight Sunday from an Egyptian port near Libya. They were part of a three-boat convoy full of migrants heading to Europe illegally, he said, according to a statement from Egypt's Foreign Ministry.

The boat he was on was supposed to carry no more than 15 people. It started sinking from the weight of the passengers, and people began jumping into the sea in the middle of the night, he said.

Thousands of young North African men make the dangerous and illegal sea journey to Europe to flee poverty, high unemployment and low wages at home. Some leave from Egypt's Mediterranean coast, but most travel overland to neighboring Libya to take the shorter trip from there.

Dozens of people have died in similar accidents in recent years.

In March 2010, around 18 Egyptians drowned at sea trying to flee illegally to Europe. In 2007, 22 people died when two smuggler boats carrying around 150 Egyptians capsized off Italy's southern coast. The next month, another boat sank off Turkey, killing 50, half of them Egyptians.