The Egyptian navy saved 55 illegal migrants from a sinking boat off its Mediterranean coast last Sunday, the Ministry of Transport said in a statement.
The migrants, mostly Egyptians and Bangladeshis, were bound for Europe and were found after a six-hour search, the ministry said.
The authorities have warned people of the dangers of trying to cross the Mediterranean illegally, saying that many of the boats are overcrowded and unseaworthy. But people are still willing to pay around $2,000 for the chance of a new life.
In a similar incident earlier this month, Libyan authorities found two survivors and 23 bodies after a boat carrying between 100 and 150 people sank off the Libyan coast, an official of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said in Tripoli.
A survivor from the Libyan boat, an Egyptian named as Wael Nagi Abdel Mutagalli, told the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram that their boat was fit to take only 40 passengers.
He was quoted as saying the boat broke down and as "a result of the panic among the passengers, who could not swim, the boat capsized and they drowned".
Laurence Hart of the IOM said a witness told him the small fishing boat had around 50 Egyptians on board in addition to West and Southern Africans and some Asians.
Hart said it was normal to see an increase in attempted crossings by migrants at this time of year when the eastern Mediterranean grows warmer and calmer, but said there had been a dramatic increase in the number of illegal migrants landing on the Italian island Lampedusa.
"When the Libyan authorities announced mass expulsions early this year, smugglers used this news to incite people to attempt crossings," he said.
Last Mod: 18 Haziran 2008, 12:18