Egypt says it prevented 12,000 people from illegally migrating in 2016

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Migrants disembark from the Italian Navy vessel Aviere in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta

Egyptian border patrol and coast guard forces stopped more than 12,000 people of various nationalities from illegally entering or leaving the country in 2016, the military said on Wednesday.

Migrants have tried to cross to Italy from the African coast, particularly from Libya, where people traffickers operate with relative impunity. But boats have increasingly departed from Egypt.

The military listed “The arrest of 12,192 people of various nationalities and a total of 434 cases of illegal migration,” in a statement on its achievements last year.

Egypt passed legislation in October to crack down on people traffickers linked to a surge in the numbers of migrants departing from its Mediterranean coast on sea journeys to Europe.

A boat carrying about 450 people capsized off the Egyptian coast in September. About 202 bodies were subsequently recovered from the sea and 169 people rescued. Some 320 migrants and refugees drowned off the Greek island of Crete in June and survivors said their boat had set sail from Egypt.

A Reuters investigation published in December found that a fishing boat carrying hundreds of migrants that capsized in April had set sail from Egypt, not Libya as previously reported. About 500 people died, the largest loss of human life in the Mediterranean Sea in 2016.

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