The Egyptian authorities said Friday that they had recovered 162 bodies after the sinking of a ship full of mostly Egyptian migrants in the Mediterranean this week.
The death toll, which is expected to rise to nearly 300, reflects the mounting economic pressure on Egyptians as well as a possible shift away from Libya as a point of departure for migrants headed to Europe, migrant aid workers said.
The boat capsized Wednesday off the coast of Rosetta, the Nile Delta port city east of Alexandria. Witnesses estimate that the boat was carrying 450 people.
The police said most were young Egyptian men in their late teens and their early to mid-20s. The military said it had rescued 163 survivors.
“That’s why this is a disaster,” said a police spokesman, Tarek Attiya. “They are just kids who wanted to work.”
Four men have been arrested in connection with the smuggling operation, Mr. Attiya said.
The number of Egyptians who are risking their lives to cross to Europe has risen sharply over the last two years, according to the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency.
“There has been an uptick,” said Joel Millman, a spokesman for the agency. “Egypt is busier now than it has been in a while.”
Among young people in Egypt, a third are unemployed and half live under the poverty line, according to official statistics.
The country’s economy has suffered a series of disruptions since the uprising in 2011 that ended the presidency of Hosni Mubarak. Egypt’s vital tourism industry has all but disappeared.
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SOURCE: NY Times, Nour Youssef