By Egyptian Chronicles –
Spanish sea rescue NGO Open Arms had a busy weekend. It rescued over 400 migrants stranded in the Mediterranean in smugglers’ boats
The biggest rescue of the weekend was on 19 September Sunday when Open Arms picked up after a search for more than 24 hours 294 migrants mostly Egyptians from an overcrowded barge south of Malta.
The 294 migrants were at the sea for 5 days including 2 days without water asking for help. They included 49 women and 60 children.
On Saturday, the Open Arms picked up 59 migrants including 10 minors from Syria, Egypt, Sudan, and Eritrea, from an oil platform in international waters off Tunisia. A dead body of a migrant who was shot on the shore by the smugglers was discovered.
Last week, the Italian authorities arrested three Egyptians in Sicily’s Catania (which is a hotspot for migrants) on charges of smuggling a boat with 285 migrants on board that arrived in Italy on 31 August.
From three weeks ago, the security directorate in Libya’s Tobruk announced that it raided a warehouse used by some human trafficking gang where they kept over 200 illegal migrants from Egypt.
According to the official statement released on 9 September by the security directorate in the Eastern Libyan city near the borders with Egypt, 287 illegal Egyptian migrants were found in the warehouse. The Libyan authorities deported them to Egypt.
Many of those 287 illegal Egyptian migrants were not only underaged teens but rather children, real children.
Like that boy with huge dark circles around his eyes showing both a body deprived of sleep suffering from huge weakness.
His name is Cyril Shenouda, he claims to be born in 2008, thus he is 14 years old, but he looks much younger. He is from Assuit His dad sent him on this journey.
He does not have a passport but rather a birth certificate. He does not know how much his father has paid for this trip ending in Tobruk.
The boy in a blue T-shirt and braises says that he and “the rest of the boys” left Egypt because there is no work there and “no one is asking about school”.
That boy’s family sold a piece of land to pay LE 120,000 for that ill-fated trip that ended up in some dirty warehouse in Tobruk.
The boy said that his family did so because his friends and people from his street travelled to Italy, and they wanted him to join them.
The youngest boy officially in that group was 12 years old Ziyad Adawy who is also from Assuit. Adawy was planning to travel to Italy to work.
Many of these boys are from Assuit, Egypt’s famous Upper Egyptian governorate with the highest poverty rate as well as the highest fertility rate.
These boys were mistreated by the smugglers in the warehouse in Tobruk. They were beaten and insulted.
The boys were given half a loaf of bread in the morning and half a loaf of bread at night, forget lunch. They did not have bathrooms or water.
Yes, Egyptian parents have been sending their underage boys on this life-or-death trip to get to the other side of the Mediterranean because they knew that EU countries can’t turn back minors.
If they are caught, the EU governments will give them a better opportunity for care according to their logic. If they are not caught, they will look like other boys and earn enough Euros to live on as well as to send back to Egypt.
Some of these boys end up in the dark web of human trafficking where the lucky ones end up working more as modern-day slaves in factories and farms while the unlucky ones may end up working in prostitution and drug trafficking. The whole thing is like a Russian roulette.
I could not find any news about those Egyptian migrants in any mainstream Egypt news outlet, or any follow-up for those Egyptian underage teens or to-be accurate children stranded in a foreign country.
The videos of those lost boys were only featured on opposition YouTube channels and Al-Jazeera Mubshar Masr as well as the MB-affiliated Rassd.
These boys returned home and yet I am sure while I am sitting in my home that some of them will try to leave the country again, especially after their families spent all that they had to send them to Europe in time of economic crisis.
Tobruk has been for a long time a hot spot or rather a hot stop for Egyptians seeking the other side of the Mediterranean and
There are whole villages in the Egyptian countryside whether in the Nile Delta or Upper Egypt that got full of young generations that currently living in Italy.
We got a village in Fayoum governorate called Tutun which is known commonly as little Italy because out of its 50,000 people, there are 12,000 men living and working in Italy since the days of Hosni Mubarak.
The success of Tutun men in Italy in the view of the locals as they returned with lots of Euros to the level of owning land and tall buildings encouraged more and more to send their boys to Italy illegally.
The EU’s numbers estimate that 3500 Egyptians reached Italy in January 2021 by boat illegally making them the second largest group of Mediterranean arriving in the country.
The EU numbers already say Egyptians are the second group after Tunisians arriving in Europe coming from Central Mediterranean since last year.
From 2015 to August 2022, 10,902 Egyptian migrants arrived in Europe illegally from Central Mediterranean routes.
According to the EU Frontex, the number of Egyptian migrants that crossed the Mediterranean to the other side in 2021 increased nearly sevenfold from 2020.
There was a presidential initiative called “Lifesaving boats” that was launched in 2019 targeting the governorates with the highest rates of exporting illegal migrants to Europe.
The initiative targeted 33 villages with the highest export rates of illegal migrants from the following governorates: Fayoum, Behaira, Gharbia, Mounfia, Qalyubia, Dahaqliya, Sharkia, Kafr Al-Sheikh, Bani Soueif, Minya, Assuit, Luxor Qena and Sohag.
About LE 250 million were allocated to develop and upgrade the living standards in those villages so the locals won’t send their kids abroad to work. The initiative became a part of the Decent Life initiative.
In the past three weeks, the number of cases of Egyptian migrants who crossed the Mediterranean or were arrested before crossing the sea increased rapidly saying that the initiatives did not reach their goals yet.
On 15 September, the European Commission confirmed that it allocated €23 million in 2022 and €57 million in 2023 to provide equipment and services to Egyptian authorities for “search and rescue and border surveillance at land and sea borders”.
Those € 80 million allocated for border control make up part of a €300 million total in short and long-term EU funding for Egypt. I wonder if they will manage to stop those young boys from trying to cross to the other side of the sea, especially with the current economic crisis.
I am afraid that with the hard economic situation in the country, we will read and see more of those cases.
I am afraid we will see more Cyril Shenouda and other lost boys.