Egypt’s president has criticised Europe for refusing to take in refugees claiming that his own country has taken in millions of people.
“I’m talking about huge numbers,” he said at the World Youth Forum in Sharm El-Sheikh. “Not about five or ten thousand that our friends in Europe refuse to receive.”
Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi said Egypt hosts some six million people who he allows to live freely in the community. However, reports from refugee organisations tell a different story.
In December last year the Refugee Platform in Egypt reported that more than 200 Eritrean asylum seekers – including 44 children – were detained in Egypt in cramped, crowded cells with little food, sunlight or medical care.
Also last year 21 Eritrean asylum seekers in the country were transferred from their place of detention in Aswan and forced to sign travel documents at their embassy in Cairo in preparation for their deportation back to Asmara.
In October and November Egyptian authorities forcibly deported 15 Eritreans back to their home country where they face the death penalty or life imprisonment. Ten of the refugees, who were denied contact with UNHCR, went on hunger strike to protest the decision.
In 2013 Egypt’s state-run media cast Syrian refugees in the country as terrorists who had aligned themselves with the Muslim Brotherhood whilst refugees from other countries in Africa report racist abuse on the streets, including having rocks and rubbish hurled at them.
That’s not to mention that there are Egyptians across Europe, including in the UK, who are seeking asylum because of the abuse and lack of human rights they have suffered back home.
Al-Sisi uses the refugee issue as leverage for its relationship with Europe. Due to increased violence and instability in Libya Egypt has been used increasingly as a starting point for refugees to reach Europe.
Al-Sisi has said that he has increased border security and therefore reduced the number of people departing North Africa for Europe.