Egypt approves law against 'illegal immigration'

Egypt approves law against 'illegal immigration'
Egypt's cabinet has approved a new law it says will prevent people smuggling, with heavy fines and hard labour prison sentences for offenders.
2 min read
26 November, 2015
Thousands of peopl have died during these perilous journeys across the Mediterranean [AFP]
In an effort to stem illegal immigration into Egypt, the government has unveiled tough new penalties for people smugglers.

Egypt's cabinet approved the bill on Wednesday, which will see people smugglers hit with heavy fines and hard labour if they are caught, according to the state-owned al-Ahram newspaper.

The new law is set to go into effect after its ratification by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, or by the new parliament, which is expected to hold its first sessions before the end of this year.

It imposes a penalty of around $6,000 to $25,000, or an unspecified prison sentence, to anyone involved in the smuggling of migrants into Egypt.

Anyone convicted of starting, managing, or working in an organised smuggling ring could face hard labour sentences, as well as a fine of between $25,000 and $63,000.
The new law imposes heavy fines and hard labour prison sentences to those who smuggle people

This penalty also applies to smugglers in possession of a weapon, or if the smuggler is a public employee, or had previous felonies.

A life sentence applies to the act of smuggling people with the intention of committing terrorist attacks.

The same applies if the smuggling results in the death or disability of a refugee or migrant, if women and children are among the group, or if fake documents are used to create new identities for the migrants.

According to article 25, the state must take the necessary measures to protect the rights of undocumented migrants, such as their rights to life, humane treatment, medical assistance, and physical and psychological integrity, as well as the right to receive legal assistance.

Article 27 obliges the state to coordinate with foreign authorities in order to facilitate the safe return of migrants to their countries.

In September, the Egyptian cabinet created the new post of immigration minister to combat illegal migration.

A perilous journey

Thousands of Egyptians have attempted to reach Europe from North Africa over the past year with many drowning in the Mediterranean during the perilous crossing.

In 2015 alone, more than 250,000 people from across Africa and Asia sought to reach Europe from North African shores, including Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.

Thousands have died during these journeys, often organised by a network of people smugglers.

In April, around 700 people died in a single incident. Just a few days earlier, 400 others drowned in a similar case.

This came only a few months after the Italian navy cancelled its Mare Nostrum search-and-rescue mission due to lack of EU funding.