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Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Migrant ship back in spotlight after Reuters investigation

The next few days will be all about Egypt’s role in sending illegal migrants to Europe after a trio of stories led by Reuters and BBC Newsnight together prompted “the head of Europe’s police agency [Europol] to say it would ‘look again’ at the largest migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean this year after an investigation by Reuters and BBC Newsnight exposed a gap in the response by law enforcement.”

More than 500 people drowned off the coast of Egypt in April in a failed bid to reach Europe, with “an estimated 190 Somalis, around 150 Ethiopians, 80 Egyptians, and some 85 people from Sudan, Syria and other countries” among the dead. We note this is a tragedy entirely separate from the September migrant boat disaster that killed more than 200.

In two separate stories, Stephen Grey and Amina Ismail delve into the migrant smuggling business in Egypt, detailing how the smuggling route works and digging into the April shipwreck. A follow-up piece quotes the director of Europol as saying the agency “would reconsider the shipwreck.” Meanwhile, BBC’s Newsnight notes that Europol is considering reopening the investigation, as Egypt “has never publicly acknowledged the sinking” and Greece’s coastguard “did not refer the case to a criminal prosecutor” due to its taking place outside Greek territory.

Reuters also looks at the struggle of the Oromos to win asylum in Egypt. The Oromos, an Ethiopian ethnic group, have been fleeing their homeland as a result of a government crackdown and seeking refuge in Egypt, where they say they continue to face discrimination at the hands of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Some use Egypt as a “jumping board” to reach Europe’s shores illegally.

Other coverage of Egypt in the Western press this morning:

  • At least 25 arrested as cops break up organ trafficking ring: “Egyptian authorities have arrested doctors, nurses and professors suspected of being involved in an international organ trafficking ring,” reports the BBC. It’s going to do wonders for our bid to promote medical tourism…
  • You know it must be a slow day in the UK when the video purporting to show less-than-appetizing conditions at a Heinz plant in Egypt makes the Daily Mail. (Background here.)
  • Three gunmen killed in raid: Per Reuters: “Egyptian security forces killed three gunmen on Tuesday, the interior ministry said, in a raid on a hideout used by what it described as an armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.” The raid on a cell of the “Hasm” offshoot of the Ikhwan took place in Assiut.
  • Protest law and WaPo: Amr Hamzawy and Nathan J. Brown penned a piece for the Washington Post dissecting the Supreme Constitutional Court’s recent decision to strike down a portion of the contentious protest law.
  • Pet cemetery: No, not the Stephen King novel. The Smithsonian tells us that Archaeologists have discovered a “nearly 2,000-year-old pet cemetery in Egypt” that contains “100 lovingly positioned creatures … [suggesting] that the ancients could have valued their companion animals as much as we do.

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