CAIRO (AP) — A boat carrying migrants capsized off the Egyptian coast on Friday, killing 12 and leaving 116 survivors, state media reported.
The navy responded to a distress call near the city of Alexandria, the official news agency said, adding that 72 Palestinians, 40 Syrians, and four Egyptians survived the shipwreck. At least 70,000 Syrians are registered in Egypt as refugees. Many, including thousands of Palestinians who also fled the war in Syria, are not -registered and use the country as a stopover before making the perilous sea trip to Europe. Thousands of Egyptians also make the sea journey to flee poverty and high unemployment.
Rights group Amnesty International said the accident highlighted the refugees' plight in Egypt, where authorities and the public at large have grown increasingly hostile toward them amid a heavy security crackdown and emergency law.
"Refugees from Syria have fled the depths of despair to seek safety in Egypt," said Amnesty expert Sherif Elsayed-Ali. "But instead of providing shelter and hope for a new life, the Egyptian authorities' actions are compelling many refugees from Syria into life-threatening situations, including entrusting their lives to smugglers in order to make the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea."
Once welcomed with open arms, many of the Syrians who took refuge in Egypt are now targeted by hate speech and intimidation. Their dramatic change in fortune is one of the unexpected consequences of the Egyptian military's ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, whose Islamist-dominated government had offered them favorable conditions.
The backlash stems from support of the mainly Sunni Syrian opposition by Morsi during his year in office, and his Muslim Brotherhood, which offered cheap housing and food aid to Syrians who fled the violence in their homeland.
With the country divided, Morsi's critics accused Syrians of participating in protests calling for him to be reinstated. Many now find themselves in a sort of legal limbo, waiting to see where the political winds will drop them. Egypt's new military-backed interim government already has imposed new travel restrictions on them.