Eritrean refugees in Egypt and Emigration to Europe

Monitors’ Report November 2016

The number of Eritrean refugee in Egypt, which began to increase every year, since 2013-2014, has reached unprecedented figure in the year of 2016. These refugees, who are fleeing, to escape the unlimited military service and the difficult situation in their country, are flooding to Egypt in an attempt to migrate to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea, in the hope of a better life. The illegal route of migration to Europe, which was in the previous years, through the Sudan to Libya since 2004 and until the year of 2013, turned to the Sudan-Egypt route, since the end of 2013, due to the broke out of the civil war and the proliferation of militias and armed gangs in Libya, since 2011.

That situation caused significant declines in the numbers of Eritrean refugees, who were jumping from the Libyan coast, in an illegal immigration across the Mediterranean Sea, trying to reach Europe. Egypt has turned into a destination for Eritrean refugees and other illegal refugees, who flock to it, in an attempt to migrate to Europe, for its stable situations, compared to its neighbor country Libya.

However, with the growing number of Eritrean refugees in Egypt in the recent years, the number of those who managed to reach Europe in current  year has seen a dramatic decline for several reasons, mainly including : –

1. The intensive security measures, which were taken by the Egyptian authorities along its coastal lines with the Mediterranean Sea and particularly in the port-city of Alexandria, which becomes the main place in Egypt for illegal immigration to Europe across the Mediterranean. Hundreds of Eritrean immigrants have been arrested and detained by the Egyptian coast guards, while trying to reach Europe illegally as a result of the security measures. Many migrants have also been deported to Eritrea, for not possessing refugee cards or any other legal documents.

2.The largest number of drowning accidents, which happened  in this year and the death of many Eritrean immigrants among many other nationalities, drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, because of the greed of brokers and smugglers, who overloaded  ships and boats of illegal immigration with largest number of immigrants.

3. The intentional delay of the UNHCR’s office in Egypt, in offering Eritrean migrants the refugee asylum seeking cards. That delay, forced the migrants to miss the illegal migration season for this year, which led to the smaller numbers of Eritrean migrants, who tried to emigrate to Europe for fear of arrest and deportation by Egyptian authorities to Eritrea, for the lack of refugee documents.

4. The UNHCR in Egypt, recently began to accelerate its process of granting the Eritrean migrants in Egypt bigger asylum and resettlement opportunities than before. Many of them have been accepted as refugees and many others also have been resettled in European countries, America, Canada and Australia. This led considerable number of Eritrean refugees to be reluctant of the illegal immigration to Europe and prefer to wait for the UNHCR legitimate process of immigration.


Increase in the number of Eritrean refugees in Egypt

According to the UNHCR statistics, the number of Eritrean refugees registered in its office was 3716 but, in the last summer only, 2284 Eritrean migrants have entered to Egypt illegally from Sudan. The number of those who tried to migrate to Europe, across the Mediterranean Sea from the Egyptian coast, and have not registered in the UNHCR office could approximately be 800 refugees.


Many Eritrean immigrants have reached Europe across the Mediterranean sea  in  2014 and 2015 from the Egyptian coasts, and also the worse security conditions in Libya has encouraged the large influx of the Eritrean illegal migrants  to Egypt from Sudan.

The youths (both males and females) constitute the largest proportion of the total Eritrean refugees, who flocked to Egypt in the last six months  and the rest of the them are from the minors and families with their children and a few are unaccompanied children .

Most of the immigrants who try to emigrate to Europe from Egypt, are young people who do not want to register in the UNHCR office and wait for its slow asylum and resettlement process.

Another recent phenomena, which indicate to the increase of the number  of Eritrean refugees and migrants in Egypt is the opening of a number of cafes, restaurants, barber shops and telecommunication centers, in an area known as Ard-Alewa  in Cairo. This district contains the largest number of Eritrean refugees and migrants in Egypt. There were not such cafes and shops owned by Eritrean refugees in the past year, which is a clear evidence of the increasing number of Eritrean refugees in Egypt in the recent time.

The migrants reach Egypt from Sudan by smuggling in the desert. There are number of brokers and smugglers networks between Sudan and Egypt, which smuggle the migrants across the desert from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum to the town of Aswan in southern Egypt. Another smuggling route begins from the coastal city of Port Sudan to the Egyptian city of Gardaga, through the Shalateen- Halayib border area between Egypt and Sudan.

The influx of the Eritrean migrants to Egypt has significantly increased in the last summer, after the outbreak of civil war in Libya and the spread of the ISIL terrorist gangs and other militias and armed gangs. These terrorist groups began to target Eritrean refugees and killed some of them. They also kidnapped and raped number of girls and women. Those security risks forced   Eritrean migrants to shift their way to Egypt for its stable situation.

Some of the smugglers and brokers networks of the human trafficking have links with some members of the border guards and security agents in Sudan and Egypt, which makes  it easier for them smuggling refugees from Sudan to Egypt and then to Europe through the Mediterranean. The cost of smuggling of migrants from Sudan to Egypt is also relatively less compared with the cost to Libya, and the smuggling networks to Libya are criminal in nature and they abuse immigrants and they rape girls and women.



Situation of Eritrean refugees in Egypt

With the increase in the number of Eritrean migrants in Egypt, there appeared phenomena of looting, harassment and rape against Eritrean refugees by some Egyptian and foreign thugs and criminals. These practices have been escalated significantly in the recent period, except torture, which did not appear any evidence for its occurrence yet. The failure to understand and respect the culture and customs of the host community by some members of the Eritrean refugees and especially the youth results in their exposure to such assaults and abuses.

Detention and deportation of Eritrean migrants by the Egyptian authorities have also increased significantly in the recent times, due to the increase in their numbers in Egypt relative to previous years. A large number of them has been detained in this year, especially after the mid-year, while trying to sneak into Egypt from the Sudan and also during attempt to emigrate to Europe across the Mediterranean. The slowdown in the UNHCR’s process in Egypt in registering and protection of Eritrean migrants contributed to their deportation to Eritrea, due to the lack of refugee documents.

Human organ trade

Recently, it did not register any crime of human organ extraction against Eritrean refugees or immigrants in Egypt by human trafficking gangs, but some crimes were committed against refugees from other African nationalities such as Somali. Due to the increasing numbers of Eritrean refugees and migrants in Egypt and the increase in the number of assaults and harassments against them and the lack of any parts, which provides them with security and legal protection, they are not safe from exposure to such crimes. Eritrean migrants have a bitter memory and already suffered a lot at the hands of human trafficking gangs and criminals and many of them lost their life in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, before not so long time.

Activities of human trafficking networks

Operations and activities of the human trafficking networks extend from inside Eritrea towards Sudan and Ethiopia and then to Libya and Egypt. Some of these networks are interconnected and operate and coordinate among themselves over these countries. There are also clandestine links between the smuggling networks of various nationalities in this area. Some of these networks have even links with some members of the security agencies in these countries, because of the exorbitant money, which some of these networks earn as a result of human smuggling operations and shared with the security members. Some of the smuggling operations from Eritrea to Sudan cost of approximately (7 to 8000 US Dollars) and from Sudan to Egypt (about 1,500 to 2,000 US Dollars) for an individual respectively.


Law and penalties on illegal immigration and human trafficking in Egypt

The Egyptian government issued a law and sanctions against illegal immigration and human trafficking in last October, after the sinking of the Al-Rashid capsizes off the Mediterranean in the last September, which claimed the lives of hundreds of Egyptians and foreign immigrants.

The law includes, besides  the  issued articles (34 articles),  identification of crime, organized criminal group, the smuggling of migrants, immigrant smuggler, a travel  document or fraudulent identity, unaccompanied children, the commercial carrier, ship, the territorial sea,  the neighboring region  and others.

The draft  law includes , the punishment of imprisonment for whom he found, organizes or directs  an organized criminal group for the purpose of smuggling of migrants or took command of where he or one of its  members  or organized them.

The law also imposed  the imposition of a prison sentence and a fine of not less than 50 thousand pounds and not more than 200 thousand pounds or a fine equal to the value returned from the benefit, whichever is greater on both committed the crime of smuggling of migrants or initiated or mediate, as the penalty of imprisonment for each of the prepared or facilitated a place to house the smugglers of immigrants or the collection, transportation, easy or gave them any services with proven knowledge.

So far, the security forces have detained some brokers and smugglers of human trafficking networks in several areas of Egypt and sentenced them to severe prison terms and hard labor.

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