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Egypt coast guard to get EU cash to stop fleeing Egyptians

  • Over 3,500 Egyptian nationals left for Italy in the first five months of this year. (Photo: Jolianne)
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Egypt's coast guard is set to receive €80m from the European Commission to prevent people from taking boats towards Italy, according to an internal paper.

Drafted by the EU Commission and dated 15 June, the paper says more than 3,500 Egyptians fled the country by boat in the first five months of this year. Almost all ended up in Italy.

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This is four times as many over the same period in 2021 and from a country whose leadership is steeped in widespread human-rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings, systematic torture, and enforced disappearances.

Egyptian nationals are now the top nationality of people arriving irregularly in Italy, notes the paper.

The document is demanding urgent cooperation between Egypt, Libya, and others "in light of a dramatic increase of irregular arrivals of Egyptian nationals to the EU (Italy)."

Millions to be paid out this year

The EU money will be doled out in two phases, says the paper.

Around €23m will be handed out this year for "maritime border surveillance equipment." The remaining €57m is slated for next year "for further equipment to be identified."

The ambiguity of the language suggests it will be up to the Egyptian authorities to decide how to use the new "equipment", posing questions if it may also be used to crack down on dissenting voices.

In May, a handful of NGOs including Human Rights Watch said repression is thriving under Egyptian president Abdel Fattah al Sisi's rule.

For its part, the commission says the money is part of a developing plan to support Egypt's search and rescue and border surveillance at both land and sea borders.

It says the "EU stands ready to support Egypt" when it comes to preventing people from fleeing by boats. It also wants to increase controls of Egypt's border with Libya and Sudan, but offers no insights into how in light of the remoteness of the region.

The commission notes it also provided €32.9m of humanitarian funding to refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt.

Meanwhile, the EU border police Frontex is gearing up as part of a so-called EU4BorderSecurity project.

Egypt received some €4m from the project, which aims to "enhance border security in the Southern Neighbourhood."

This includes coast guard boarding exercises, physical workshops, and webinars incurring a total cost of approximately €70,000 since 2019.

The paper is dated the same day European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced a gas deal in Cairo alongside al Sisi.

The deal, which includes Israel, aims to help member states wean themselves off Russian fossil fuels.

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