The Rashid Misdemeanour Court sentenced on Sunday three defendants to 13 years imprisonment and 54 defendants to 10 years in the capsized Rashid boat case.
The boat sunk on 21 September in the Mediterranean Sea, offshore from Rashid in Beheira governorate. It was carrying between 300 and 600 illegal migrants.
The death toll has now reached 202, and the armed forces were able to rescue 163 people.
The defendants are accused of human trafficking, manslaughter, illegally using boats to transport individuals, endangering lives of children, and not using enough rescue methods.
One month after the incident, the Egyptian parliament approved the government’s Illegal Immigration and Human Trafficking Law, which labelled illegal immigrants as victims rather than defendants who could be punished for illegal immigration.
It focused on holding accountable the entities that organise or assist in the illegal operation and hand them harsh prison sentences and fines ranging from EGP 200,000-500,000.
Sunday’s verdict is the first application of the law. Following the verdict, dozens of the defendant’s family members gathered outside the court.
Thousands of illegal immigrants cross the Mediterranean Sea every year, and Egypt has become a popular destination to begin the journey. Egyptians are also counted among these immigrants, who mostly end up travelling to Italy.
Hundreds of Egyptian nationals have been repatriated from Italy with the help of the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Rashid has become a known location from which boats carrying illegal immigrants depart across the Mediterranean Sea headed to Europe.
The Rashid boat incident caused many Egyptians grief.
The victims were mostly from lower classes hoping to seek different opportunities in Europe. The incident stirred debates about the presence of a suitable working environment in the country.
Most of those rescued from the capsized boat were referred to investigations by the prosecution, where they were questioned about the process through which they were attempting to flee the country and cross the sea.