President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has vowed more jobs for Egyptians to deter them from making dangerous voyages to Europe after nearly 170 refugees drowned when a boat capsized off the country’s Mediterranean coast.
Speaking in the coastal city of Alexandria on Monday, Sisi said there was no “justification or excuse” for the loss of life in last week’s shipwreck.
The president went on to say that fisheries and factories were being built in the Kafr al-Sheikh area, from where the doomed boat departed, to create jobs for locals.
“There is hope .. especially in this place where the migrant boat sank, but we can’t overcome all obstacles and put an end to them in one, two or four years,” Sisi noted, stressing, “A project will be set up for fish farming. It may be the largest in Egypt, but putting a project into action takes time.”
The remarks come as Kafr al-Sheikh in Egypt’s Nile Delta has emerged as a hub for human trafficking and smuggling refugees to Europe.
On Wednesday, a boat transporting African asylum seekers capsized near the Egyptian coast. At least 169 people have so far been confirmed dead in the incident.
Survivors said up to 450 refugees had been aboard the fishing boat when it sank about 12 kilometers off the coast of the Egyptian Mediterranean port city Rosetta.
Poverty and a lack of jobs along with political repression in Egypt have driven thousands to embark on perilous journeys in rickety boats across the Mediterranean to Europe.
The perilous sea route across the Mediterranean Sea from Egypt to Italy, which often takes more than 10 days, is just one of several routes used by asylum seekers.
Frontex, an EU agency for the management of operational cooperation at the external borders, said in June that crossing from Egypt to Italy was becoming increasingly popular.
After Balkan countries closed the popular overland route in March and the European Union reached a deal with Turkey to halt departures, asylum seekers from conflict zones in the Middle East and North Africa have turned to new paths to reach Europe.
The current year has been described by the United Nations as “the deadliest year on record in the Mediterranean Sea.”
Since 2014, according to the United Nations, more than 10,000 asylum seekers have lost their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean into Europe in substandard vessels overloaded with desperate refugees.