News / World

The Latest: 162 bodies recovered after Egypt boat tragedy

A Syrian man sits inside his tents at Ritsona refugee camp north of Athens, which hosts about 600 refugees and migrants on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. Most of the roughly 60,000 refugees and other migrants stranded in Greece are living in

A Syrian man sits inside his tents at Ritsona refugee camp north of Athens, which hosts about 600 refugees and migrants on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. Most of the roughly 60,000 refugees and other migrants stranded in Greece are living in "appalling conditions" and face "immense and avoidable suffering," rights group Amnesty International said in a report Thursday, slamming Europe's response to the refugee crisis. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

THESSALONIKI, Greece — The Latest on the mass migration to Europe:

7:30 p.m.

An Egyptian official says the bodies of 162 people have now been retrieved from the sea, two days after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sank off Egypt's coast while attempting to reach Europe.

Mohammed Sultan, the governor of Beheira province, said Friday dozens more are feared dead.

It remains unclear exactly how many people were on board the boat, which sank 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) off the Egyptian coast. Estimates range between 450 and 600 passengers. Egyptian authorities say 160 people were rescued.

Survivors say the boat was overcrowded, and it is believed that many of those killed were women and children who were unable to swim.

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7:30 p.m.

Greek authorities say they have scrapped plans to use chartered ferries to house refugees and other migrants from a fire-damaged camp on the island of Lesbos.

The Moria camp suffered extensive damage in a fire that broke out late Monday. Nobody was injured, and Greek police said the fire was set by rioting residents.

The camp houses more than 4,000 people held there under a European Union-Turkey deal to stem migration.

The merchant marine ministry said Friday it was abandoning initial plans to charter ferries to house camp residents whose tents were burnt because Moria had in the meantime been restored to full operation.

Also Friday, Greek police said that seven Syrian refugees on Lesbos who voluntarily abandoned their bids to gain asylum in Greece have been flown back to Turkey.

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4:40 p.m.

Egypt's state news agency says the total number of bodies pulled from the Mediterranean waters off the Egyptian coast has climbed to 148, three days after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized.

MENA quoted Wahdan el-Sayyed, the spokesman of the Nile Delta province of Beheira, as saying Friday that the search operation is still ongoing for more bodies of victims.

The migrants' boat capsized on Wednesday, nearly 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from the Nile Delta port city of Rosetta. Many of the dead are women and children who were unable to swim away when the boat sank.

Egypt has been a traditional route for migrants seeking to reach Europe by sea. The EU border agency, Frontex, recently said more than 12,000 migrants arrived in Italy from Egypt between January and September this year, compared to 7,000 in the same period last year.

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4:40 p.m.

Police have arrested an Albanian who allegedly helped 22 Afghans illegally cross the border on their journeys toward western European countries.

A statement Friday said that police arrested a 35-year-old man from the capital Tirana, who they say was transporting 22 Afghan citizens from neighbouring Greece toward Kosovo. It didn't specify if he received money for the group transport.

The migrants are usually turned back to the country they came from, in this case to Greece.

Albania has toughened its laws on such charges and the suspect could face up to seven years in prison if he is convicted.

Albania has not been a major transit route for migrants through Europe so far.

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3:00 p.m.

A senior Egyptian official says a total of 115 bodies have been pulled out of the waters off the Egyptian coast, three days after hundreds of migrants heading to Europe drowned.

Mohammed Sultan, the governor of Beheira province, told The Associated Press that dozens more are feared dead.

Egypt has been a traditional route for migrants seeking to reach Europe by sea. The EU border agency, Frontex, recently said more than 12,000 migrants arrived in Italy from Egypt between January and September this year, compared to 7,000 in the same period last year.

The migrants' boat capsized on Wednesday, nearly 12 kilometres (7.5 miles) from the Nile Delta port city of Rosetta.

The UNHCR estimates that the boat was packed with some 450 people, while the state news agency MENA said earlier that the number might be as high as 600. Some 150 people, mostly Egyptians, survived while many of the dead are women and children who were unable to swim away from the wreckage.

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2:50 p.m.

The U.N.'s migration watcher says the death toll among people trying to reach Europe by the Mediterranean this year tops 3,500 and is "rapidly approaching" the record level set last year.

International Organization for Migration spokesman Joel Millman says its count includes at least 51 people who died following a boat capsizing off Rosetta, Egypt, this week. That figure was expected to rise considerably.

IOM says more than 300,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean this year, mostly arriving in Greece and Italy. More than a million crossed in all of 2015, but the rate of deaths is far higher this year.

IOM has been recalculating its estimates of deaths on the Mediterranean last year, but currently believes that at least 3,675 people died on that sea in 2015.

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1:40 p.m.

The United Nations' human rights chief has criticized Macedonia's treatment of migrants, calling on the country to end its "systematic policy of expulsion and detention."

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed particular concern Friday for 180 migrants living in the transit centres of Tabanovce near the Serbian border and Vinojug near the Greek border since being trapped by Balkan border closures in March.

Zeid said there had been no assessment "of the necessity or proportionality of their de facto detention."

Tabanovce centre head Goran Stojanovski told The Associated Press that 61 migrants lived in the centre , which was of an open type where residents can leave at any time.

"We are doing whatever we can to provide all necessary medical and other care," Stojanovski said.

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1:20 p.m.

Greek police say they arrested a young Afghan on suspicion of attempting to smuggle five Iraqis out of the country to Bulgaria.

A police statement Friday said the 19-year-old was arrested while allegedly guiding the Iraqis on foot toward the Bulgarian border.

In the eastern Aegean, 241 people reached Greek islands from the Turkish coast from Thursday morning to Friday morning, government figures showed.

A Greek official says authorities caught 107 people, mainly Syrian families, entering Greece across the Evros river forming the border with Turkey.

The official said the group, which was found Wednesday and taken to refugee camps, apparently took advantage of low water levels on the river to cross. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

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1:10 p.m.

Dozens of bodies, many decomposed, are being pulled out of the waters off the Egyptian coast three days after hundreds of migrants heading to Europe drowned when their overcrowded boat capsized.

An Associated Press reporter in the Nile Delta city of Rosetta saw between 20 to 30 bodies early Friday morning brought in by fishing boats.

The death toll from the incident is at least 70 and will likely rise. Many of the dead are women and children who were unable to swim away when the boat sank on Wednesday.