The Minister of Manpower and Immigration, Khaled Al-Azhari, travelled to Jordan Wednesday to resolve the current issue surrounding Egyptian migrant workers in the kingdom. According to the ministry, Al-Azhari is expected to meet with his Jordanian counterpart to discuss what can be done to deal with the high number of illegal migrant workers currently employed in Jordan.
Jordan places the number of Egyptian workers at 500,000 but the Egyptian embassy said there could be as many as 800,000 working in Jordan, of which only 167,000 are known by the embassy to possess a valid working permit. Ashraf El-Kilany, a media adviser within the Egyptian embassy in Jordan, confirmed Al-Azhari was meeting with Jordanian officials and embassy staff, adding that, “security raids and the problems Egyptian workers are facing,” were the main items on the agenda.
Jordan recently announced a crackdown on illegal migrant workers, prompting the Egyptian government to address the issue surrounding the difficulties in obtaining work permits. According to El-Kilany, the minister wants Jordan to give Egyptian migrant workers a grace period in which workers would be able to process the necessary legal papers. “We ask the Jordanians to give workers time to correct the situation,” he said.
“This kind of procedure was taken before by Egypt,” El-Kilany said, adding that the issue has been ongoing for a long time. “Jordan has ceased security raids for now,” he continued, “but the Jordanians are completely justified.” Many illegal workers in fact have work permits for specific jobs, but go on to work within other industries, contrary to their permit.
Many foreigners currently have difficulty obtaining Jordanian work permits. Al-Azhari aims to discuss ways in which both governments can work together to ease the legal process, allowing more workers to be documented.
The ministry confirmed Al-Azhari will return to Cairo Thursday night, and that his visit to Jordan will not be his last trip in the region. Given Saudi Arabia’s frequently documented cases of abuse against Egyptian workers, the ministry added that Al-Azhari will be keeping a watchful eye on the situation. If the situation does not improve, talks will be held with his Saudi counterpart.
Egyptian migrant workers have been faced with several documented cases of rights abuse in countries like Jordan and Saudi Arabia. In 2009, an Egyptian wedding planner, Najla Yehya Wafa, was arrested after a business deal with a member of the Saudi royal family went sour. Yehya Wafa was sentenced to five years in jail, accompanied by 500 lashes to be handed out periodically. She has already reportedly received over 300 lashes.
In April, the Egyptian lawyer Ahmed Al-Gizawy was arrested by Saudi authorities on charges of smuggling drugs into the country. Al-Gizawy denied the charges, with human rights organisations speculating his arrest was politically motivated.
The Egyptian government has so far failed to secure the release of both prisoners, and hundreds more are believed to be imprisoned for violating the kingdom’s punitive laws.