The European Union is eyeing Egypt in an attempt to reduce the number of migrants entering the bloc from Africa. The move is not seen favorably among human rights campaigners because of Egypt’s poor track record of human rights standards. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country is currently holding the EU’s rotating presidency, said that the EU would cooperate with Egypt “in depth” during a recent informal gathering of European leaders in Salzburg, Austria.
“Egypt and the North African countries can be important partners for us in preventing ships heading to Europe and after their rescue being brought back, in other words to the countries of transit,” Mr. Kurz said. “Only in this way can we reduce illegal migration, can we destroy the business model of the smugglers, and stop drownings in the Mediterranean.” The new strategy was announced after Chancellor Kurz and EU Council President Donald Tusk had visited Cairo and held talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. “We’ve got to ensure that as few people as possible leave northern African countries for Europe. If they do, the situation should be dealt with as close to the African coast as possible,” added Sebastian Kurz.
The Austrian leader further said that Egypt was “efficient” and praised Mr. el-Sisi for giving “an example when it comes to illegal migration and people smuggling”. Although the cooperation with Egypt is still only at very nascent stages, Donald Tusk said that the EU would have talks with other North African countries as well. The EU’s request for help from Egypt comes as the number of new arrivals is significantly lower compared with 2015 when more than a million people entered Europe. This year, around 77,000 people have entered the continent by sea.