The ongoing crisis of Egyptians stranded abroad

The crisis of Egyptians stranded abroad is ongoing because of air traffic suspension after the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. The crisis has entered its second month, yet al-Sisi’s regime is responding slowly.

This time, the crisis boiled over from Kuwait, where hundreds of Egyptians demanded the government bring them back quickly. Kuwaiti security forces broke up the demonstration using tear gas and arrested some of the protesters because they are “rioters.” 

Insult to the country and citizens

Hundreds of Egyptian labourers have been stranded in Kuwait and some are in breach of their residence terms after they lost their jobs after the outbreak of the pandemic. Kuwaiti authorities issued a decision allowing them to leave the country without being fined.

They placed the stranded Egyptians in a cantonment, hoping that the Egyptian authorities would transfer them, but the regime has refused to bring them back and the migration and foreign affairs ministries are stalling, pledging to bring them back soon, but without resolving the crisis. Last month, many of the stranded started a hunger strike to urge al-Sisi’s regime to allow them to go back to their country, but nobody listened. The stranded have complained about the treatment of the Egyptian embassy in Kuwait, which makes them feel that their country doesn’t want them.  After two months of procrastination, they were forced to protest to pressure the Kuwaiti authorities to intervene and allow them to go back. The Kuwaiti security forces broke up the demonstration using tear gas, and arrested some of the protesters on the grounds that they are “rioters.”  Instead of feeling shame at leaving them stranded, the Egyptian embassy criticised their protest and described the demonstration as “unfortunate events” and “unacceptable behaviour”, and stated that it will start bringing the stranded back this week. 

The spokesperson for the foreign affairs ministry justified what was happening: “The Egyptian state are sparing no efforts to bring back its stranded citizens around the world, not only in Kuwait… there are procedures that have been implemented and a plan in place according to a timeline to resolve the problems and bring them back.”  The continuity of the crisis of Egyptians stranded abroad is still incomprehensible, especially since their return doesn’t cost much.

Al-Sisi’s regime is benefitting from Egyptian labour but abandoned them when they need help. The regime ignores the fact that Egyptian labour abroad, around 10 million people, have sent tens of billions of dollars home during the past few years, which has contributed to mitigating the effects of the economic crisis. Last year only, Egyptian workers abroad transferred about $27 billion

Repression of expression on social media

Fearing for its image, and to suppress the screams of complaints, the Egyptian Ministry of Migration, which is responsible for Egyptians abroad, has limited the geographic scope of its Facebook page and blocked access to it from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait to prevent Egyptians stranded in some countries such as Kuwait from commenting on its posts and from demanding that they be brought back quickly.