27th Oct 2016

Egypt blames EU-Turkey deal for refugee spike

  • Four hundred people have attempted to leave Egypt on small boats to reach the EU in the past few days (Photo: crystalndavis)

Egypt has blamed the EU-Turkey deal for a spike in migrants and refugees in the country and wants more help from the EU.

Egypt's assistant foreign minister ambassador Hisham Badr said on Tuesday (30 August) his country now hosts some 5 million refugees and migrants.

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He noted around 500,000 are Syrians and that 800 asylum demands are being filed daily.

"You see what has happened as a result of the deal with Turkey. The closing of the Balkan route and the deal in north Africa, the pressure has increased on Egypt," he told MEPs in the European parliament's foreign affairs committee.

He noted Egyptian border authorities had prevented some 5,000 people from leaving in boats in the past few months.

Egypt is the second main staging point after Libya for asylum seekers and migrants leaving on boats to reach the EU.

The Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM) says over 106,000 people have arrived in Italy from the north African coast since the start of the year.

Some 90 percent left from Libya with the remaining taking off from Egypt. Badr said the vast majority leaving in boats are not Egyptians.

"In the last few days, we've intercepted around 400 trying to travel to Europe," he said.

The money

He noted Egypt spends some $300 million a year on the crisis.

"We will continue of course to do our jobs and bear our responsibility without trying, unlike certain other countries, to bargain with that for other reasons," he said.

But he then suggested the large aid package from the EU to Turkey was unfair while Cairo obtained little help from the EU in comparison.

"We are not getting enough support. I don't want to mention any examples with a country bordering you, which has got 6 billion dollars in help," he said.

The EU in March had agreed to provide some €6 billion in humanitarian aid to Syrian refugees in Turkey over the next few years.

The money is not slated to go directly to the government in Ankara.

But its slow rollout has irked Turkey, which has threatened to scrap the deal if the euros don't start financing projects.

Broader solutions

Egypt, along with Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan, are partner countries of the so-called Khartoum Process launched in November 2014.

Led by France, Germany, Italy, Malta, and the UK, the Khartoum Process aims to crack down on migrant smuggling and human trafficking by opening dialogue among the partner countries.

It is not immediately clear how effective it is. Eritrea and Ethiopia are sworn enemies and South Sudan has since descended into chaos.

Last year in Malta's capital city Valletta, EU leaders and African heads of state had also agreed to tackle the root causes of the migration crisis and step up efforts on legal migration.

Badr complained that little had been done on either front and demanded broad long-term solutions.

"If we have problems as officials getting visas [to EU states], imagine what our students and our people who are doctors or are engineers," he said.

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