Egypt’s chief prosecutor has referred 40 defendants to trial accusing them of human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
The suspects face an array of charges including embezzlement, forging official documents, facilitating illegal immigration and sex trafficking, a statement by Prosecutor Nabil Sadek revealed.
The Public Fund Prosecution began investigations into the case following a report published by the Administrative Control Authority that brought to light the involvement of a foreign ministry employee for coordinating the criminal network for human trafficking, incriminating further suspects.
No date has been set for the trial although the defendants may face a 15-year term if found guilty.
In recent years Egypt’s northern coast has witnessed an increased outflow of thousands of refugees and migrants attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean.
In October 2016, the Egyptian parliament passed legislation to crackdown on a growing smuggling industry along its northern seaboard. The law imposes prison terms and fines on those found guilty of smuggling potential migrants or acting as brokers or middlemen. It also sanctions prison sentences for those who provide shelter to trafficked migrants and gather, transport or otherwise facilitate their journey.
Earlier this month a delegation of Egyptian government officials went to Brussels on a visit facilitated by UN migration agency IOM to learn efficient practises on counter-trafficking and victim protection. The visit came amid the EU’s stipulated priority in tackling human trafficking in Egypt and ensuring responsible migration.