Egyptians in Italy: Forgotten in the Coronavirus crisis

Despite the widespread of the new Coronavirus (Covid-19) infection in Italy, no Egyptian minister has spoken of the conditions of more than half a million Egyptians living in Italy. Although the Egyptian regime showed clear interest in the evacuation of Egyptians from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak of the Coronavirus at the beginning of the crisis, no practical action has been issued on Egyptians in Italy. Egyptians expressed their anger at the Egyptian regime’s neglect of the Egyptians’ crisis in that European country, especially since most of them are concentrated in the Lombardy region, northern Italy. The angry Egyptians pointed out that their relatives in Italy were trapped in their homes, and no Egyptian official moved to their rescue, even though they contribute their money transfers to the Egyptian economy. About 560,000 people live in Italy; most of them reside in the Lombardy region in northern Italy, representing 44.8% of Egyptians in Europe, according to the 2017 census. Concerns have grown over the lives of Egyptians there, as the Coronavirus is spreading widely in Italy, which is the most infected and dead in Europe. Rome announced the banning of gatherings, the tightening of restrictions on travel and movement, the closure of schools and universities, and the suspension of sporting activities, with deaths due to coronavirus reached 463 cases, and more than 9,000 infections. At the end of last January, Egypt decided to evacuate its nationals from China, and Sisi instructed to take measures to return the Egyptians from Wuhan.

Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced that he had made arrangements with the Egyptian ambassador to China to speed up the return of Egyptians from there. But in the Egyptians’ crisis in Milan, the Egyptian official dealings were much less, and only a statement was issued by the Minister of Manpower and the Egyptian Consulate in Milan. On March 4, the Minister of Manpower, Muhammad Sa`fan, announced the follow-up of the case of the afflicted Egyptian in Milan by the labor attache in the consulate in Milan, who sent the next day a letter to the community, to take care and follow the instructions of the Italian government.

Despite media contact with some officials of the Egyptian community in Italy, the Egyptian media did not mention the state of concern of Egyptian families over their families. During a live phone call from the Talk Show anchor, Amr Adib, to a member of the Union of Egyptians Abroad Manal Al-Mughrabi, she did not mention any Egyptian government measures in favor the Egyptians abroad, and she stressed that the only way of communication between the Egyptians is social networking sites. In another call on Monday, the head of the Egyptian community in the Italian city of Brescia, Talaat Sheta, said that the Egyptian community had not recorded any cases of the coronavirus, despite the announcement of 3 cases, (2 in Milan and the third case outside it). Panic prevails among the families of Egyptians residing in Italy because of fears on their relatives. While more than a half million Egyptians fear themselves and their families from the disease, their living are being damaged as their works stop. Although some families demanded their relatives to return, others expressed fears of infections while traveling, as airports appeared to center to spread infection due to crowding.

Egyptians present in Italy have expressed their intention to stay despite the widespread spread of the virus, noting that “the Italian authorities do not differentiate in health treatment between their citizens and foreigners and have allocated a phone number to communicate when there are any signs of high temperature or cold, which is followed by a rapid and comprehensive examination.” One young man said he was more afraid to return to Egypt under the current circumstances than to stay in Italy. This came despite the fact that after the authorities’ decision to isolate 16 million people in the north, the Egyptians were living in difficult conditions because their work was severely damaged. In addition, the crisis of living was exacerbated after closing stores, lack of goods and stopping imports.

According to Egyptians living in Italy, there are two cases of Egyptians infected with the virus outside the industrial city of Milan, and there is a third case inside the city. The Egyptians affirmed that the Egyptian authorities and the embassy in Rome and the consulate in Milan have no support for the Egyptians during the crisis.

Opponents consider that al-Sisi was concerned with returning Egyptians from China not for humanitarian reasons, but for political reasons, and it is to delude the people that he cares about Egyptians abroad. Later, when al-Sisi felt that the repatriation of Egyptians from Italy may include large numbers, and his health system could not examine and care for them medically, he chose to ignore them as if they were forgotten.