Egyptians risk lives at sea
Egyptians, driven by a dismal economy and bleak prospects, are increasingly taking dangerous risks to cross the sea and reach Europe, as demonstrated by the recent tragic shipwreck off the coast of Greece that claimed numerous lives.
The father of a 14-year-old boy who went missing in the Mediterranean recounted his last conversation with his son, who informed him about their departure two days later.
According to the father, the fishing boat his son boarded, carrying hundreds of migrants, departed from Libya but tragically capsized in the Ionian Sea near Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula on the night of June 13, never reaching European shores.
This incident, deemed one of the deadliest migrant drownings in recent times, resulted in the loss of at least 82 lives.
The father, speaking anonymously to safeguard his privacy, shared how young men frequently leave their village without informing their families, which was also the case for them.
He discovered that his son had left for Libya, where he spent 15 days before embarking on the treacherous sea journey.
Although over 100 survivors have been rescued, the United Nations estimates that the boat was packed with 400 to 750 passengers, with many of their remains still unaccounted for at sea.
Of the survivors, 43 were identified as Egyptians. Refugees Platform in Egypt (RPE), a local NGO, has received numerous calls from families desperately seeking information about their missing relatives. In just one village, Naamna, RPE has identified 13 missing persons, including nine minors.
In two other villages in the Sharqia governorate, over 40 families have reached out to the NGO for assistance.
Nour Khalil, the executive director of RPE, explained that neither the exact number of Egyptians on the boat nor the number of missing Egyptians has been disclosed by authorities.
While one talk show host with close government ties, Amr Adib, mentioned an approximate figure of 200 Egyptians aboard the vessel, the missing teenager’s family remains in the dark about his fate.
They provided a DNA sample to the foreign ministry but have received no updates.
Frontex, the European Union’s border patrol agency, reported that between January and May, 50,300 migrants arrived in Europe through the central Mediterranean, which the UN has identified as the most perilous migration route globally.
However, some migrants manage to go undetected. In 2022, one out of every five migrants who reached Italy by sea and one out of every three unaccompanied minors were Egyptian, according to the European Union Agency for Asylum.
Most of them travel through Libya due to Egypt’s severe economic crisis and the “catastrophic” human rights abuses reported by Egyptian rights groups.
Egypt has positioned itself as a defense against irregular migration to Europe, touting its role and requesting funding while bolstering border security.
According to authorities, no migrant boats have departed from Egyptian shores since 2016. During a visit to Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron praised Egypt’s partnership with the EU in combating “illegal migration,” as stated by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s office.
The European Commission has allocated 80 million euros ($87 million) for Egypt’s “border management,” which includes surveillance at land and sea borders.
However, Khalil argues that the militarization of the border is not a solution and exposes migrants to abuses in areas where human rights watchdogs face restricted access.
Instead of deterring desperate individuals from leaving, this approach has merely shifted the problem.
Egyptians now cross into Libya and embark on treacherous journeys from there.
Libya has frequently faced criticism from the UN for its treatment of migrants, including arbitrary detention and mass deportations.