Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1307, (11- 17 August 2016)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1307, (11- 17 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Cross-border calamity

The Egyptian general consul to Libya tells Ahmed Amer that 150 Egyptians have been killed, hundreds abducted and 60,000 returned home from the Tunisian border at the government’s expense

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Unconfirmed reports of the abduction of 27 Egyptians in Libya on Saturday have once again cast the spotlight on the plight of expatriates in Egypt’s troubled neighbour.

“There are more than half a million Egyptians in Libya living side by side with Libyans in the east, west and south of the country. Most of them come from poor villages in Egypt and arrived looking for jobs. The vast majority work as labourers or farm workers for a daily wage,” Egypt’s General Consul in Libya Amr Farouk Al-Bayoumi told Al-Ahram Weekly in an exclusive interview.

“When the security situation in Libya worsened Egypt recalled its diplomatic mission in January 2014 leaving Egyptians searching for a living there to face a very difficult security situation on their own.”

Al-Bayoumi adds that following the recall of the diplomatic mission Egypt placed a ban on travel to Libya and appealed to all Egyptians living there to leave.

“We set up a consular office on the Libyan-Tunisian border to bring back those Egyptians able to reach the border,” Al-Bayoumi said.

“Since July 2015 till now we have transported 60,000 Egyptians by air from Tunisia to Egypt. The Egyptian state shouldered the entire cost, from their entry to Ras Ajdir, the border crossing on the Tunisian border, until their arrival to Egypt.”

“The Egyptian consular office on the Libyan-Tunisian border works not only to evacuate Egyptian nationals. We have local contacts in all Libyan cities with whom we follow up on the community’s problems. The consular office has also worked to repatriate the bodies of hundreds of Egyptians from inside Libya. We also follow up on all cases of Egyptians who are arrested on criminal charges and those who have been abducted by militias. Just as there are militias in Libya, there are also honourable citizens, tribal leader and city notables, who work to resolve difficulties for Egyptians. We’re in constant contact with these people and with their help we’ve been able to secure the release of many detained Egyptians and resolve other problems facing the Egyptian community in Libya’s towns and cities.”

“There are no accurate figures for the number of Egyptians in Libya,” adds Al-Bayoumi. “Many entered illegally, and even before the current crisis legal migrants did not always register with the consulate. Our estimate, after we’ve brought many Egyptians home, is that about half a million Egyptians remain scattered throughout Libya. Every city, even those in the far south, has Egyptians.”

“The Egyptian community includes all ages. There are many families, some with children. We find kids of 14 working on construction sites. Unfortunately, we don’t know little about these children.”

Al-Bayoumi says dozens of Egyptians have been killed in the various conflicts raging across Libya. Many Egyptians, including women and two children, were killed in Tripoli last year, victims of random shelling.

“The official figures from the last two years are150 Egyptians killed, including 21 citizens slaughtered in Sirte by the Islamic State,” says Al-Bayoumi. “Many more have been reported missing but we have no official confirmation of their death. And nearly 1,000 Egyptians have been abducted. The consulate is in contact with sheikhs, city notables, military leaders and many ordinary Libyans in an attempt to secure the release of abductees.”

Asked about the possible return of the diplomatic mission, the general consul said: “Differences among Libyan parties persist and there is little consensus over possible solutions. It’s difficult to set a date for the return of our diplomatic mission to Libya. We hope for stability and calmer conditions.”

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