A US Government report has shown that the number of Arab citizens who applied to the random US emigration visa programme known as the 'lottery' reached four million in 2018; they include an estimated 1.3 million Egyptians.
According to the figures published on the website of the US State Department's Consular Affairs Office last Tuesday, the total number of those who applied from all over the world is around 23 million people, four million more than the figure in 2017 which was put at 19 million. The total number of those who applied in 2016 was more than 17.5 million.
First in the Arab world, fifth globally
The released figures showed that Egypt had the highest number of applicants from the Arab world crossing the threshold of the one million lottery applicants. 1.3 million Egyptians applied to emigrate to the US in 2018 compared to 914,000 in the previous year, an increase of 361,000 people. As such, Egypt has occupied the fifth position globally, after Ghana, 2.227 million; Uzbekistan, 2.114 million; Iran, the biggest Middle East source of applicants at 1.624 million; and Ukraine in fourth position at 1.45 million.
It is worth noting that the random emigration visa programme (the lottery) is an annual lottery in a competition to win permanent residency cards in the US, known as the Green Card. It is a programme made available to countries with low emigration levels to the United States.
The numbers of Egyptians applying for the emigration program have fluctuated over the past ten years. The numbers recorded are: 914,000 in 2017, 512,000 in 2016, 763,000 in 2015, 847,000 in 2014, 960,000 in 2013, 780,000 in 2012, 534,000 in 2011, 642,000 in 2010, 648,000 in 2009 and 636,000 in 2008.
The United States decided in 2017 to increase Egypt's share of the visa to 4,500 up from 4,000 in 2016 out of a total of 55,000 random visas issued worldwide every year.
A horrifying figure
Commenting on these statistics, Al-Azhar University sociologist Taha Abu Hussein said that in general terms emigration is not such a bad thing, for it is a feature of human conduct passed from one generation to another throughout history. He added that emigration has contributed to cultural exchange and to the creation of various civilisations, though emigration in Egypt has, in recent years, been associated with a negative phenomenon from which the country suffers.
Speaking to Arabi 21, Abu Hussein stressed that "this is a horrifying figure and the government should reflect on it, study it and take effective steps in order to address and reduce the causes of such massive emigration out of the country." He added that "the figure of 1.3 million is only that of the Egyptians who managed to fulfil the conditions stipulated by the US government for the emigration programme. Certainly, there are many others who wished to emigrate but failed to qualify. There are also other citizens who applied to emigrate to other Western countries, let alone the many thousands who pursue unofficial routes for migration."
He went on to say that "emigrating out of Egypt has now been linked to the deterioration in the conditions within the country in all fields. It is no secret that the climate in Egypt is a driving factor, leading to a haemorrhage of people with talents and expertise, so much so that the overwhelming majority of people now believe that success in any field is impossible unless one got out of Egypt."
Abu Hussein further explained: "The majority of the Egyptians are young men and women, and a large number of these youths are seeking a better life outside the country. They want to escape the deteriorating political and economic conditions that have been burdening for them." He also warned that "the continuation of these large numbers of emigrants out of Egypt will augment the phenomenon of the depletion of talented and qualified individuals and the consequent loss of intellectual talent. This will impact negatively on any efforts made to improve living conditions inside the country."