The European dream pushes the Egyptians into dangerous sea voyages

More and more Egyptians embark on sea voyages to Europe fleeing from poverty and repression or from a future without expectations at the cost of losing their lives like those who died in a recent shipwreck in Greece.

“I spoke to my son for the last time on the night of June 7. He told me that he was embarking” two days later, explained the father of a 14-year-old boy who disappeared in the capsizing of an old and overloaded fishing boat on the night of June 13. off the Greek coast.

“In our town, young people usually leave without notifying the family, this is what happened to us: I learned that my son had gone (…) to Libya where he stayed for 15 days before embarking,” said this man, who prefers not to give his name.

Only in his town, Naamna, in the Nile delta, the NGO Platform for Refugees in Egypt (RPE) registered 13 missing persons, nine of them minors.

According to authorities, 43 Egyptians survived the shipwreck off the Peloponnese coast.

On its side, RPE received dozens of calls from families without news of their relatives. Only in two villages in Sharqia province did they accumulate more than 40.

So far, 82 bodies have appeared from this shipwreck, probably one of the most serious in the Mediterranean. But, according to the UN, there were between 400 and 750 passengers on the fishing boat, including women and children.

No information

“We do not know how many Egyptians were on board and the authorities did not report the number of missing Egyptians,” Nour Khalil, director of RPE, told AFP.

Only a presenter of a television program close to the Cairo government ventured to give a figure. According to him, 200 Egyptians were on board.

The father of the missing young man is still waiting for news.

“We have gone to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have a DNA sample taken from us,” he told AFP. But “we don’t know anything and nobody keeps us informed.”

anti-migration fight

Frontex, the European border agency, counted between January and May 50,300 arrivals of migrants in Europe through the central Mediterranean, the most dangerous migration route in the world. There are probably more that were not detected.

In 2022, one in five migrants arriving in Italy came from Egypt, according to the European Union Agency for Asylum.

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According to official data from Italy, a third of all minors arriving are Egyptians.

Most try to cross from Libya to Italy to escape the worst economic crisis in Egypt’s history, but also the deterioration of respect for human rights under the presidency of Abdel Fatah al Sisi, which the NGOs call catastrophic.

Egypt considers itself an outstanding student in the fight against irregular immigration and calls for more funds from European countries.

In June, French President Emmanuel Macron defined it as “an essential partner of the European Union in the fight against illegal immigration,” according to the Egyptian presidency.

Since 2016, no migrant boats have left the Egyptian coast.

In August 2022, the European Commission announced the disbursement of an additional 80 million euros (87 million dollars) to Egypt to finance “the surveillance of land and sea borders.”

no future

For Khalil, “the militarization of the borders is not a solution”, but only “displaces the problem” because the Egyptians are now launching into the sea from Libya.

In this country, Egypt’s western neighbor, the UN regularly denounces “mass arbitrary arrests” of “thousands of migrant men, women and children detained on the streets or in their homes.”

In early June, Libyan media released unverified videos showing nearly a thousand Egyptians being expelled and forced to walk to the border.

“The penalties against traffickers are getting longer, the Coast Guard is getting more armed” and NGOs have no access to these militarized areas, Khalil said.

But these barriers did not stop 13 Egyptians from the village of Naamna from marching. “As long as the new generation has neither prospects nor a future nor the possibility of being heard”, the outings will continue, he assured.

In the group there were nine minors, a sign of the change in the profile of Egyptian emigrants.

“Before, they would go to Europe to work for a few years, save money, and come back to Egypt to start a small business,” Khalil explained.

Now, “the new generation does not want to return to Egypt because they do not think that they will have any future here,” he added.

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