The Egyptian army announced on Tuesday that it has arrested over 6,000 people in the last seven months for attempting to “illegally migrate” via Egyptian borders.
A new report documenting the military's work from October 2014 to April 2015, which was published on the military spokesman’s official Facebook page, said border control forces had arrested 6,004 people attempting to illegally enter or leave Egypt.
The statement did not specify nationalities, but said the group included Egyptians.
Large numbers of migrants from African and Middle Eastern countries have been attempting to cross the Mediterranean in recent years, primarily from the Libyan coastline, in order to reach Europe. Many are refugees fleeing war or persecution, while others are migrants searching for a better life. Hundreds have been killed in boat accidents in recent months, and the EU plans to take action against the people smugglers who transport the migrants.
Egyptians and other nationalities are regularly arrested while trying to cross into Libya, in many cases because they are hoping to find work.
The army statement also said that forces seized 6,097 weapons, including automatic rifles, machine guns, pistols and birdshot guns, in a variety of operations during the specified period.
It also stated that forces have taken control of 521 smuggling tunnels, including 63 located “between 1 and 2.8 kilometres away from international borders.”
Egypt’s army has been waging an ongoing campaign against Islamist militants in North Sinai. In an attempt to reduce infiltration by militants, the army last year began creating a buffer zone along the Rafah border that extends 1,000 metres inside Egypt, and has been attempting to destroy smuggling tunnels connecting Egypt with the Gaza Strip.
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