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Egypt will accept returned refugees in exchange for military, security incentives from Italy, sources say

October 4, 2021 at 11:16 am

Thousands of students of the University of Bologna attends a demonstration to protest against the imprisonment and torture of their collegue Patrick George Zaky detained in Egypt and claims his liberation at Maggiore Square on 17 February 2020 in Bologna, Italy. [Roberto Serra – Iguana Press/Getty Images]

Sources have told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that plans are underway to improve a secret cooperation agreement between Egypt and Italy in which Cairo will continue to accept returned refugees attempting to reach Europe in exchange for military and security incentives from the European country.

The same report says that Egypt is also trying to revive a project it had previously suggested to Germany and France which would see it teach African governments how to deal with issues arising from the youth, including as a result of unemployment. This would build on a previous project hosted by Egypt which saw it train police and security forces in several African countries on how to tackle irregular migration.

This “undeclared” security cooperation, sources say, is the reason Cairo has so far not come under intense condemnation and scrutiny as a result of his human rights record and abuses.

Italy has, however, come under pressure to hold Egypt to account following the murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni in 2016 by Egyptian security forces and for the two countries not to normalise relations.

More than five years after Regeni was kidnapped, tortured and murdered, a judge in Rome says four senior Egyptian security officials should face trial over his kidnap, torture and murder, however Egypt refuses to cooperate with Italian prosecutors.

It also follows failure on the Egyptian government’s part to release political prisoner Patrick Zaki, who was studying his master’s in Italy but was arrested and tortured last year when he came home to Cairo for a visit.

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In April, Italy’s upper house in the Senate voted overwhelmingly to give Zaki Italian citizenship after repeated calls for his release have been ignored.

Last year there was widespread criticism as it was revealed that there was an arms deal between Italy and Egypt worth $1.2 billion. Regeni’s family responded to the announcement to say that they felt “betrayed.”

In 2018, after EU leaders agreed to enter talks with Egypt for in-depth cooperation to reduce the number of migrants entering Europe from Africa, human rights campaigners spoke out against it because of Egypt’s recorded human rights abuses.

After the migration deal was offered to Egypt at the Salzburg summit, in exchange the EU promised to increase economic cooperation.

In recent months several people have tried to escape Egypt for Italy from the city of Mansoura. In one incident, 18 drowned and the survivors were held in a detention centre in Libya.

One week later, 11 Egyptians drowned off the coast of Libya after their boat, which was heading towards Italy, sank.