Egypt has refused to build refugee camps in the country, after an EU migration deal revealed that European leaders would seek to establish centres in the Middle East and Africa to host deported asylum seekers.
“EU reception facilities for migrants in Egypt would violate the laws and constitutions of our country,” said Egyptian Parliament Speaker Ali Abdul Aal in an interview with the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
“Our capacities are already utilised today; therefore, it is important that Egypt receives support from Germany and the EU.”
The country currently hosts more than 221,675 refugees and asylum seekers, with 3,118 newly registered in 2018 alone, according to the UNHCR. Unofficial estimates however indicate that the actual number exceeds 300,000.
Egypt has particularly struggled with the refugee burden in light of its own economic problems. The government is currently implementing numerous austerity measures as part of the reform programmes stipulated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and has argued that the increase of foreigners has resulted in significant costs to the country.
The latest European request comes after Italy refused to open its borders to a boat full of migrants last month, leaving those on board the Aquarius stranded in the Mediterranean. After days at sea, Spain agreed to host them.
Following an emergency meeting of European leaders, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reached a deal with 14 EU member states to quickly return migrants who first arrived in other countries, as well as calling for building large “anchor centres” at the borders.
Nevertheless, differences still remain, with French President Emmanuel Macron refusing to set up any centres, as France is not among the EU states where migrants first arrived. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has also said that he did not sign any deal that would take back migrants that travelled through Italy to Germany.
The plan has also been rejected by the EU’s “partner countries”, including Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Albania, amid growing concerns about the fate of migrants prevented from reaching Europe.
Last week, an investigation by the Associated Press revealed that more than 13,000 people, including pregnant women and children, have been abandoned by Algerian authorities in the Sahara Desert over the past 14 months. Mass expulsions have increased since October 2017, as the EU renewed pressure on North African countries to prevent migrants and refugees going north to Europe.
An EU spokesperson said the EU was aware of what Algeria was doing, but that “sovereign countries” can expel migrants and refugees as long as they comply with international law.