Saturday,24 March, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)
Saturday,24 March, 2018
Issue 1299, (9 - 15 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Exploiting expatriates

The minister of immigration tells MPs what is being done to protect the interests of Egyptians working abroad, reports Gamal Essam El-Din

Al-Ahram Weekly

In meetings with parliament’s Arab and African Affairs Committees on Saturday and Sunday Minister of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram told MPs that the recent plethora of murders of Egyptians in Arab and foreign countries does not reflect growing hostilityto Egyptians living abroad.

“These are individual cases. They do not reflect any wider negative attitude towards Egyptians in Arab or foreign countries,” said Makram.

Makram was responding to accusations from MPs who say her ministry is doing nothing to investigate the deaths of Egyptians in Europe and America over the last month.

“Your ministry has even failed to defend the rights of Egyptians living in Gulf countries, especially in Kuwait and Qater where several Egyptians have been tortured by their employers and denied their financial rights,” claimed Cairo MP Said Shabayek.

Many MPs say the response of the Ministry of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs to the deaths of Egyptians in the UK, Italy, the US and Libya has been weak and ineffectual.

“The ministry has failed to exert any pressure on foreign states to seriously investigate the killing of Egyptians though it is the duty of Egyptian authorities to take all necessary measures to protect the lives of Egyptians abroad,”said Shabayek.

“Even when an Egyptian was badly beaten by his employer in Kuwait, it was a Kuwaiti lawyer rather than the Egyptian consulate who decided to defend him. It seems that the dignity of Egyptians is the last thing you care about,” Shabayek told Makram.

“The torture of an Egyptian citizen in Kuwait triggered a quick response from officials at the highest level,” responded the minister. “The prime minister has formed a committee to investigate the difficulties Egyptians face in Kuwait and other Arab Gulf countries. One problem is that many Egyptians working in these countries do not register their names with the relevant embassy or consulates. That is why we are in the process of creating a comprehensive database on Egyptians living abroad.”

“The ministry is currently in contact with the Ministry of Labour, professional syndicates and trade unions to help form a comprehensive database of Egyptians working abroad. Unfortunately many Egyptians do not register their names with the relevant Egyptian embassy. This reflects a lack of confidence in their government and we are trying our best to regain their confidence,” said Makram.

Makram told MPs she visited several countries last month to review the conditions of Egyptians working abroad and that “consulate missions have been sent to different countries to identify the problems of Egyptians and compile a census of expatriates”.

“It is widely believed that the total number of Egyptians living and working abroad is around 10 million. A recent survey, however, suggests this estimate is far too low,” she said.

Makram urged MPs not overreact to news stories of Egyptians being mistreated in Gulf states.

“Arab Gulf countries have brotherly relations with Egypt and we are coordinating closely with them to ensure Egyptians receive fair treatment,” said Makram. “Our priority at the moment is to persuade Arab Gulf countries to abandon the Kafeel (employer sponsorship) system which leaves Egyptians vulnerable to bad treatment.”

“The deaths of 22 Egyptians in Libya last month are still being investigated by Egypt’s sovereign state authorities to determine whether they were victims of a terrorist act. There have been reports that these Egyptians entered Libya illegally in search of work and that an argument erupted between the migrant workers and their Libyan traffickers over the sum to be paid for transporting them.”

“There is,” Makram continued, “a pressing need to tackle the problem of illegal migration because of the dangers it poses to national security.”

“Otherwise,” she said, “an Egyptian was killed in England, one in Italy and another in the US. Egyptian embassies are in a regular contact with police and judicial authorities to investigate deaths.”

Many MPs accused the Western media of double standards in its treatment of the murder of an Italian student — Giulio Regeni — in Cairo last January whose badly beaten body was found beside railway tracks in Naples.

Makram argued “the Regeni case was badly exploited by some foreign circles to tarnish the image of Egypt’s Interior Ministry.”

She also complained “we are facing campaigns among Egyptians in Europe and elsewhere to convince expatriates not to buy the recently-issued high-return Egypt My Homeland dollar certificates”.

“The deposit certificates have been issued to increase the supply of hard currency, especially dollars, but there is a campaign against the certificates.”

According to Makram “the ministry has developed a counter campaign to inform Egyptians abroad of why they should buy into the scheme”.

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