Egyptian authorities on Saturday released 51 Palestinians who had been detained in the North Sinai city of El-Arish after they attempted to travel to Europe by taking boats from the Egyptian coast.
Chief of the Palestinian community in the North Sinai region Kamal al-Khatib told Ma’an that the group had managed to “finish the needed procedures to release the prisoners held in the central prison.”
Al-Khatib said that fines were paid on behalf of the 24 prisoners, all of whom had tried to embarking on marine vessels and travel through Egyptian territorial waters to unspecified points in southern Europe.
Al-Khatib said the group was awaiting deportation orders so they could travel to the Rafah crossing into Gaza.
19 other Palestinians detained for the same charge were released from a police station in El-Arish and nine more from a police station in Beer al-Abed village near El-Arish, he said.
This year has seen a surge in the numbers of migrants attempting to make the hazardous crossing from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe.
The UN’s refugee agency UNHCR said in mid-December that 384,000 people had tried the crossing since the beginning of the year, of whom more than 4,000 died while attempting the journey.
The surge is the result of political instability and a lack of economic prospects across the southern Mediterranean and Africa, and the number includes many Palestinians who have fled Syria as well as Gaza via boat from Egypt.
Thousands of Gazans are thought to have escaped via tunnels to Egypt in order to flee the nearly two-month Israeli offensive that left more than 2,000 dead and 110,000 homeless in the tiny coastal enclave.
Egyptian authorities have in recent months promised to crack down on the flow and have arrested record numbers of Palestinians fleeing Gaza.
But the devastation wreaked by the Israeli bombardment and the continued siege have dimmed Gaza’s economic prospects for the near future, and even as Egypt continues to crack down on movement of goods and people through tunnels, the tide is likely to continue.
(Ma’an – www.maannews.net)