By Jihad Abaza
Beheira Governorate’s Border Guards have arrested approximately 200 people of different nationalities for attempting to illegally immigrate to Italy on Sunday morning, said Beheira security officer Ahmed Khaled.
“Illegal immigration through Beheira happens on a daily basis,” said Khaled. “This is because it is the closest sea port to Italy.”
A fishing boat carrying 172 people was caught off the coast at Rashid. Of these, 50 were Egyptian, 92 were Syrian, and 27 were Sudanese, with one Palestinian, an Eritrean, and a Chadian.
At the Idku seaport, 37 people, of which 36 were Syrian with one Palestinian, were arrested while attempting to leave.
“They were supposed to use the fishing boats up until they got to the middle of the sea where they were meant to ride a bigger boat to Italy,” said Khaled.
Italy is one of the top five countries of residence for illegal Egyptian immigrants, and deported a number back to Egypt for illegal immigration earlier this year.
The immigrants are expected to be transferred to the prosecutor general’s office. The non-Egyptians will be deported if they do not have the proper paperwork and visas while the Egyptians will be tried for illegal immigration.
“We are leaving in large numbers,” said a Syrian outreach officer for the Tadamon Organisation for Solidarity with Syrian refugees who only identified herself as Suzzane, “This is the good season for travelling by boat since the waves aren’t very high, but by October, it will be much more dangerous.”
Throughout the past year, the Egyptian state arrested a large number of Syrian refugees and deported many more. Egyptian border guards have also stopped Syrian attempts to flee several times over the past year.
“It is obvious why Syrians would want to leave. Residency is difficult, there is no assistance from the UNHCR, there is no work, no sources of income, no stability or sustainability,” Suzzane said. “Syrians are not welcomed in Egypt.”
On one occasion, Egyptian border guards fired on a boat in the Mediterranean, arresting over 200 Syrians, including a nine-year old boy on the boat without his parents.
“No one wants to stay here. People don’t want to leave their countries and have these adventures, but as you can see the situation is not getting any better in Syria,” Suzzane added. “On the other hand, leaving Egypt entails six days of danger and ultimately more respect in the welcoming countries.”
Since last July, public opinion has turned against the 300,000 Syrians living in Egypt as the state launched a media campaign against them and closed in on residency policies.