By Mohamed Abdel Monsef
Ten Egyptian fishermen have returned to Egypt from Libya’s Zuwarah Port, after escaping armed clashes that broke out in the area. The fishermen had been caught in fighting that broke out between forces loyal to Libyan General Khalifa Haftar and Libya Dawn militias.
Mohmaed Fathy Hemeda, one of the returning fishermen, began by thanking Haj Jomaa Esara, owner of the Libyan boat on which they worked. Esara facilitated the boat’s travel licence immediately after fighter jets began to strike the port on 4 December.
Death surrounded the sailors throughout the trip, he said, beginning with aircraft shells falling only 100 metres from the boat.
Ismail Mohamed Al-Yemeni, another sailor, said food and drink were strictly rationed during the time they were confined onboard.
Al-Yemeni explained that a sailor’s travel to Libya is based on employment contracts with boat owners in Zuwarah Port, located close to the Libyan-Tunisian border.
He added that they entered Egyptian territorial waters early on Wednesday and turned themselves in to the Egyptian Coast Guard.
The sailors and captain say they will return to Libya once its ports reopen for work, as they cannot find other work, nor do they have any savings, pensions, or health insurance.
Darwish stressed that Libyan ports are the only ports receiving Egyptian fishermen, in exchange for an annual fee of LYD 1,200 for residence, taxes, and insurance.
He requested that the government mediate between the parties in the Libyan conflict, to bring back the rest of the Egyptian citizens stranded there.
Ahmed Nassar, head of the Kafr El-Sheikh Fishermen’s Union, said the suspension of 10 workshops manufacturing fishing boats in the Moghaizel Tower and Rashid Tower areas is due to civil strife across the region. The workshops were limited to repairing boats, exacerbating the recession that plagued Egyptian fishermen.
Nassar added that Egyptian fishermen moved to work in Libya because there they can use tight nets that are prohibited internationally because of by-catch of small fish. The use of such nets contributed to fish scarcity along the Egyptian shores.