August 8, 2008 (EL-ARISH) — The Egyptian authorities have arrested 587 illegal immigrants since January trying to sneak across the border into Israel, a security official said on Friday.
Most of those arrested in the Sinai peninsula were African citizens, trying to make their way into Israel in search of a better life, the official said on condition of anonymity.
“Egyptian police have arrested 587 illegal migrants, most of them Africans, since the beginning of the year as they were trying to enter Israel,” the official said.
A total of 249 of those arrested were Eritrean citizens, including 40 women and seven children, while 172 came from Sudan, he said, adding that the other migrants were from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Mali and Ghana.
At least 19 people have been shot dead by Egyptian police on the border this year.
The porous 250-kilometre (155-mile) Egypt-Israel border has become a major transit route for migrants, asylum-seekers and drug smugglers.
In February, Israel decided to build a security barrier along the border to stem the flow of migrants as well as infiltration by Palestinians planning attacks on its territory.
Israel last month set up a special body charged with tackling the flow of migrants.