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Social media erupts after Egyptian MP says drowned migrants 'deserved to die'

Elhamy Agina blamed the parents of migrants after 168 died in a shipwreck while trying to reach Europe from the north coast of Egypt
Egyptian rescue workers arrive on a boat carrying bodies of migrants (AFP)

Egyptian social media users have lashed out at an Egyptian MP for saying that those on board a recent migrant boat disaster, in which 168 people have now been confirmed dead, “deserved to die”.

After the tragedy came to light last Wednesday, Egyptian MP Elhamy Agina accused the migrants’ parents of not “bringing them up right”, deflecting blame away from local authorities. But his comments have since sparked a backlash across Egypt with people widely expressing outrage.

Translation: Does anyone know if Elhamy Agina has any children? Is he a father?

Survivors from the boat, which capsized near the port city of Rosetta on 21 September, said at least 450 were on board in an attempt to reach Europe. As well as the 168 bodies recovered, 163 people were rescued, leaving around 150 others unaccounted for.

Pictures posted on social media sites showed dozens of bodies in black bags, and others floating near simple fishing boats, with videos also surfacing allegedly showing some fishermen using nets to bring up the bodies.

"The sea is littered with bodies," a fisherman was heard shouting in one of the videos. 

The International Organisation for Migration said most of the people who were rescued from the migrant vessel were Egyptian, but that there were also Sudanese, Eritrean, a Syrian and an Ethiopian on board.

“If young people travel behind their parents’ backs or without their permission it is their own fault what happens and they do not deserve sympathy,”  Agina told local media.

“The parents of young people who migrate illegally get caught trying to do so or die should be punished…because these young people are reckless and have not found anyone to tell them right from wrong.”

He added that “if the government, which has eased travel procedures, had been the one who told these young people to flee on that boat and drown then we would immediately hold the government accountable”.

Call for Turkey-style deal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday said the EU needed to establish migrant deals with Egypt and Tunisia along the lines of the agreement it already has with Turkey, adding that more must be spent on development aid to deal with the root causes of migration.

The EU and Turkey agreed in March that Ankara would stem the flow of illegal migrants to Europe in exchange for financial aid and the promise of visa-free travel. 

Translation: When a member of parliament says this, it means we are not in a country or a jungle, it means we are in a mass grave.

Agina has previously courted controversy in Egypt by claiming women should accept female genital mutilation in order to “reduce their sexual desires” because men are “sexually weak”.

The deaths of so many Egyptians prompted President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi to hold an emergency cabinet meeting with his security chiefs on Saturday.

Prime Minister Sheif Ismail has since arranged increased patrols of harbours used by migrants and a proposed new piece of legislation will include “deterrent penalties” against people smugglers.

Egyptian authorities have so far in 2016 foiled 110 attempts to smuggle migrants to Europe, Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar told the cabinet.

Transaltion: How is Elhamy Agina a member of parliament?

The UN refugee agency expects 2016 to be the deadliest year on record for Mediterranean crossings by migrants and refugees.

More than 4,600 non-Egyptians, many of them Sudanese and Ethiopians, have been arrested this year trying to depart from Egypt's northern coast, the UNHCR said on Friday.

More than 10,000 people have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014, according to the United Nations.

Translation: When a member of parliament says this, it means we are not in a country or a jungle, it means we are in a mass grave.

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