A dialogue was held with Eng. Ismail Ahmed Ali, President of General Union of Egyptians Abroad, around several files relating to the situation of citizens living abroad.
The President of the Union confirmed that there are between 10 and 12 million Egyptians residing abroad, revealing that transfers amounted to 30 billion dollars this year.
In the beginning, what is the situation of Egyptians in Qatar in the light of cutting relations, are there any cases of layoffs?
There were no layoffs to the Egyptians in Qatar, and the owners of companies and institutions treat them with respect and do not interfere in the political affairs of the system. Most of those present in Qatar have been working there for more than 15 years the Qatari people like the Egyptians very much, and we follow the situation with the head of the Egyptian community there, who has not received any complaints about the maltreatment or dismissal from work.
Rumours were rife that there is a mass return of Egyptians from Saudi Arabia?
We respect the laws of the host country. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States during the past period have faced economic difficulties, as over time. In Saudi Arabia, there were many young graduates who needed jobs; the high rate of unemployment among their citizens resulted in a process of replacing foreigners while retaining the functions of technicians for their need.
Lately, Saudi Arabia has applied fees on residents family members of all nationalities, such fees will double over the coming years up to 2020; many of the residents could not afford it, prompting some to return to their country individually rather than collectively.
Can Egypt absorb the returning Egyptians?
There may be a problem with increasing numbers of Egyptians returning above normal rates. On the other hand, the government supports small and medium enterprises, giving them the opportunity to expand their own projects by assisting them to obtain bank loans. This may be a golden opportunity for those returning back to Egypt, as most of them may have an initial capital and experience by which they can start there own business and accordingly this may enhance the business environment in Egypt.
What is the mechanism followed by the Union in monitoring the situation of Egyptians in different countries?
We have branches in most countries that include large numbers of Egyptians such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Libya, the UK, the USA, Italy, France and Kuwait. We currently have 14 branches and other branches are being established in countries such as Sweden and Australia.
The first task is supporting Egyptians and helping them solve their problems that they face, On the other hand, linking the Egyptian citizen to his mother country, organising meetings with the Egyptian community to correct the counter ideas that are spreading in foreign countries and to respond to the rumours launched. This is to emphasise that what the country is going through is a temporary phase of economic reform and development that is currently yielding returns.
Is there a confirmed statistic for the number of Egyptians living abroad?
We have between 10 and 12 million Egyptians abroad, and this calculation was made according to the citizens registered in the consulates, so we ask everyone who is in a country to register himself to be in contact with the consulate in the event of any problem.
Unfortunately, most Egyptians do not care about registration, which hurts them when problems occur, especially in the Gulf countries and when a problem happens between the worker and his sponsor. Finally, the Government started to establish a database, and stipulated that the contract should be signed by the Ministry of Manpower and the Labour Counsellor in the host country to guarantee the citizen his rights when working abroad.
The incidents of attacks against Egyptians abroad are repeated. How do you deal with these cases?
These practices are mostly individual cases, the Union deals with it in the beginning amicably and then direct it legally through the consulate’s labour counsellor. We are keen to have the head of the sub-union a prestigious figure in the host country so that he can deal with such problems.
Through your follow-up, what are the most prominent of these problems?
The problems of Egyptians in European countries are different from those in the Arab countries. For example, in Europe, illegal immigration remains the most important challenge, and so far, there is no solution, as deportation is the right of the hosting country. In Arab countries, it is mostly “sponsor verses resident” problems, but the situation has been better over the past decade.
Is there cooperation between the Union and the Ministry of Immigration?
The relationship between the ministry and the Federation directly is that they were established together by a single republican decision in 1983, and the mission of the ministry is to serve Egyptians living abroad. The union collects information about them and cares about their issues and problems, and there is constant contact with the Ministry on these grounds.
How do you evaluate the performance of the Minister Nabila Makram?
Due to the fact that she succeeded in restoring the confidence of Egyptians abroad in their country, her selection as Minister of Migration was successful. She is a diplomatic figure and she is good at dealing with Egyptians living abroad problems, and aware of their demands. I have made many visits with her abroad, during which she was keen to listen to the citizens. She recently organised a conference entitled “Egypt Can” which hosted scientists and academic Egyptians living abroad who were marginalised in previous eras, and she is currently arranging a conference for young Egyptians living abroad in cooperation with the Presidency.
How many foreign transfers have reached Egypt this year?
Nearly 30 billion dollars worth, and it is expected to increase during the coming period due to the increase of investment projects and encouragement of Egyptians to transfer through the country’s legitimate channels and national banks.
Finally, what can you say to Egyptians living abroad?
Do not listen to the malicious rumours, because Egypt is targeted, and that we are moving forward to the better. I advise citizens to resort to the consulate in the face of any crisis; I also invite them to visit Egypt each year with their children to connect them with their motherland. Finally, not to put their money in foreign banks because Egypt is the first and most secure and there is a vision that Egypt will become one of the richest countries in the world in the future. They need to join in this progress plan as they are the true citizens of this growing nation and economy.