Egypt frees 45 Palestinians for traveling without travel documents
The 45 men from the Gaza Strip had been in Egyptian custody for several months. (AFP/File)
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Egyptian authorities on Wednesday evening released 45 Palestinians from the Gaza Strip who had been in custody for several months after they crossed into Egypt without documents hoping to travel by sea to Europe.
Sources in the Interior Ministry of the former Hamas-run government told a Ma'an reporter in Gaza City that the freed detainees were transferred to the Gaza Strip Wednesday after spending several months in Egyptian prisons.
The majority of the detainees were arrested after they crossed into Egypt without documents but were unable to leave for Europe by sea.
About three weeks ago, another group of Gazan detainees were freed from Egyptian custody under similar circumstances.
Thousands of Gazans are thought to have escaped via tunnels to Egypt in order to flee the nearly two-month Israeli offensive that left more than 2,000 dead and 110,000 homeless in the tiny coastal enclave.
Egyptian authorities have in recent months promised to crack down on the flow and have arrested record numbers of Palestinians fleeing Gaza.
But the devastation wreaked by the Israeli bombardment and the continued siege have dimmed Gaza's economic prospects for the near future, and even as Egypt continues to crack down on movement of goods and people through tunnels, the tide is likely to continue.
2014 saw a surge in the numbers of migrants attempting to make the hazardous crossing from across North Africa and the Middle East to Europe.
The UN's refugee agency UNHCR said in mid-December that 384,000 people had tried the crossing since the beginning of the year, of whom more than 4,000 died while attempting the journey.
The surge is the result of political instability and a lack of economic prospects across the southern Mediterranean and Africa, and the number includes many Palestinians who have fled Syria as well as Gaza via boat from Egypt.