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Migrant crisis: Europol to investigate Egypt mass drowning


The European policing agency Europol is planning to investigate what is believed to be the biggest loss of a migrant boat in 2016, following a Reuters-BBC Newsnight investigation.

More than 500 people are thought to have died in the sinking on 9 April, but there has been no official inquiry.

Newsnight has established that the boat set sail from Egypt - not Libya, as the UNHCR stated at the time.

The head of Europol, Rob Wainwright, said the case was "uncomfortable".

He welcomed the Reuters-BBC Newsnight investigation and promised "to look at it again" given "the absence of any clear answers".

The forgotten shipwreck

Reuters and BBC Newsnight spent months piecing together the story of what happened to the ship that sank on 9 April 2016 - speaking to survivors, to relatives of the victims, and eventually tracking down the smugglers, the brokers, and the details of the ship that sank.

Thirty-seven people survived the shipwreck, but more than 500 are believed to have died. Those who perished came from Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Syria, Egypt and a number of other countries.

Each had paid around $2,000 (£1,600) to smugglers in the hope of reaching Italy.

Newsnight understands that the main boat - a trawler - set sail from the port of Rashid, just to the east of Alexandria in Egypt. At about 02:00 local time on the night of Saturday 9 April a fishing boat with around 200 additional migrants attempted to join the trawler, which by that time had around 300 people on board.

It began to list towards the fishing boat. The migrants tried to correct that by shifting to the other side, but they over-compensated and the trawler capsized.


According to survivors of the disaster, the fishing boat sped off, leaving about 100 people who were still alive and swimming in the water, to drown. One survivor told BBC Newsnight that he was threatened with a knife by a smuggler when he tried to help fellow migrants.

The first that was known of the shipwreck was a full week later when the Italian coast guard received a distress call from one of the survivors.

The smugglers had instructed those on board to say they had come from Libya - in order to avoid being repatriated to Egypt. A few days later, based on interviews with survivors in Greece, the UNHCR issued a press statement stating that the ship had left from Libya.

Read more at BBC


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