A spike in illegal migration from Egypt amid country’s dire economic situation

The number of Egyptians leaving their country through human smugglers began to climb dramatically just as the country’s economy began to plummet and inflation skyrocketed

The Egyptians are increasingly seeking illegal migration to Europe.

The International Organization for Migration counted nearly 22,000 Egyptian migrants arriving in Europe last year mostly by sea, a notable spike from previous years when Egyptians weren’t among the top nationalities seeking asylum in EU countries, according to npr.

Last year’s figure pushed Egypt to the top, surpassing illegal migrants from every other nation, including those from Afghanistan and war-torn Syria.

To understand why, you need only look at the economic picture in Egypt.

Egypt’s economy suffered major blows from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which sent grain prices rising. Egypt is the world’s biggest importer of wheat, most of it from the Black Sea region.

The effect the war could have on Egypt’s economy, food security and ability to pay for vital imports prompted jittery foreign investors to pull billions of dollars out of the country.

The Egyptian currency has since plummeted, losing over half its value against the dollar in the black market since the start of Ukraine’s war.

As a result, the price of food in Egypt has steadily climbed, increasing by around 80% for fish, 60% for grains, cheese and eggs and nearly 90% for meat and poultry compared to a year ago.

This has put basic food items out of reach for millions of Egyptians who rely on government subsidies to survive.

In March of last year, around 1,400 Egyptians applied for asylum in countries of the European Union, which has paid huge sums to governments in North Africa to strengthen border controls.

The EU Agency for Asylum (EUAA) said in a report a year ago that March’s figure in 2022 marked the highest monthly total for Egyptian asylum seekers since at least 2014.

The EUAA found that during the first quarter of 2022, EU countries received a total of nearly 3,500 asylum applications from Egyptians, a whopping 338% increase compared to the same period a year before.

Meanwhile, Egypt has cracked down on illegal migration; the government says no ship carrying migrants illegally has left Egypt’s waters for Europe since 2016. And it has strengthened laws targeting Egyptian traffickers.

Egypt has also launched campaigns to encourage men from heading off. In 2016, the government announced the “National Strategy on Combating Illegal Migration” with outreach programs that train young men in poor provinces for jobs in painting, carpentry and plumbing with the aim of helping them find work in their towns.

These programs target males in the 14 Egyptian provinces where illegal migration to Europe is highest.

But the figures show that men are still leaving – in greater numbers than ever.

Neighboring Libya has only intermittently cracked down on illegal migration from its shores.

Traffickers use expansive networks in Egypt to lure migrants.