The Egyptian government approved a draft law Wednesday aiming to crack down on illegal migration and impose harsh fines and sentences to those caught smuggling people out of the country illegally, Egyptian news website Ahram Online reported. The new law would impose fines of between roughly $6,000 and $200,000 or a prison sentence to anyone who smuggles, attempts to smuggle or mediates in the smuggling process of migrants.
Another of the law’s articles imposes hard labor sentences and fines between about $25,000 and $63,000 for anyone convicted of starting, managing, holding a position in or being a member of an organized group that smuggles migrants out of the country illegally.
Thousands of Egyptians have tried to flee the country in recent years in search of better job opportunities, but hundreds have been arrested after crossing the Mediterranean Sea and reaching Italy or Greece.
The law requires ratification by either Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi -- who holds legislative powers in the absence of parliament -- or the incoming parliament, which is expected to begin its first sessions by the end of the year.
In May, European leaders met with Sisi to address Egyptians’ illegal migration to Europe. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany’s foreign minister, and Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Union’s commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship, told the Egyptian president that the country urgently needed to protect and monitor its borders.
In 2015, more than 250,000 migrants from Middle Eastern and African countries have attempted the dangerous sea voyage from shores in North African countries such as Libya, Tunisia and Egypt en route to Europe. The trips, organized by smugglers, have resulted in thousands of deaths at sea.
The Egyptian government has sought to combat illegal immigration by creating a new post for a minister of immigration during a cabinet reshuffle in September.