Search

 

Cablegate: Egypt Balancing Employment, Illegal Migration with Workers

VZCZCXRO4268
RR RUEHTRO
DE RUEHEG #0786/01 1071416
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 161416Z APR 08 ZDS CTG RUEHSD0120W SVC
FM AMEMBASSY CAIRO
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 8951
INFO RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 1604
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 0218

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 000786

SIPDIS

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y - INFO ADDEES ADDED

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREF PREL PHUM ECON EG LY
SUBJECT: EGYPT BALANCING EMPLOYMENT, ILLEGAL MIGRATION WITH WORKERS
IN LIBYA

REF: A. 2007 TRIPOLI 106
B. TRIPOLI 6
C. TRIPOLI 38

Sensitive but unclassified, not for Internet distribution.

1. (U) This is a joint US Embassy Cairo-US Embassy Tripoli message.


2. (SBU) Summary: Egyptians have long sought economic betterment by
working - usually illegally - in Libya. Although constantly
changing Libyan labor restrictions resulted in the return of some
Egyptian workers to Egypt in 2007, we have not seen a drop-off in
the rate of Egyptians seeking work in Libya. Libya is both a
destination and a transit country for migrants, including Egyptians,
seeking to illegally travel to Europe for work, and labor issues are
consistently discussed between Egyptian President Mubarak and Libyan
leader Qadhafi. In order for the GOE to mitigate criticisms that it
fails to provide sufficient work at home or to protect its citizens
abroad, it must balance between encouraging employment in Libya,
which helps Egypt's unemployment problem, and discouraging those who
would illegally travel to Europe. End summary.

Egyptians Seek Higher Salaries in Libya
---------------------------------------

3. (U) Approximately one million Egyptians -- half of Libya's
undocumented migrant population -- live and work in Libya, drawn by
its geographic proximity, relatively higher wages, and modest cost
of living. Our informal conversations with Egyptians indicate that
a taxi from Cairo to the Libyan border costs only about EGP 250 (USD
45), slightly less than the average one month's salary for
working-class Egyptians, though according to Libyan contacts a taxi
from Tripoli to Cairo can cost as little as LD 25 (USD 20). Most
Egyptians working in Libya are not highly educated and work mainly
in construction, retail, restaurants, hotels, and domestic services,
according to press reports and Libyan contacts. Remittances from
Egyptian workers in Libya are an important part of income for many
Egyptian families: recent media reports indicate that remittances
from Libya to Egypt amount to USD 382 million annually.

Egyptians Face Legal Challenges in Libya
----------------------------------------

4. (SBU) Libya's constantly changing and arbitrary labor laws make
it virtually impossible for a foreigner, including an Egyptian, to
work legally in Libya. In February 2007, a senior Libyan official
announced an expansive crackdown on foreign workers (ref A). The
Libyan government subsequently changed its procedures for issuing a
work visa, requiring all applicants to provide a formal work
contract, to pay insurance, and to produce a health certificate from
a Libyan medical facility; in addition, applicants for work visas
had to prove (retroactively) that they entered Libya legally. On
January 7, 2008, Libya imposed additional requirements on
"population-exporting countries," excluding Tunisia and Egypt, that
require certain foreigners coming to Libya as "tourists" (i.e., not
on regular work contracts) to arrive with at least USD 1,000 in cash
(ref B). In January 2008, Libya announced broad plans to arrest and
deport all foreign workers "immediately"; however, according to
Egyptian sources in Libya, Libya failed to follow through on the
threat (ref C).

5. (SBU) According to the Egyptian press, Libya's new taxes and
registration fees on Egyptian workers amount to about LD 115 (USD
98) monthly. Immediately after enactment of these new rules, about
35,000 of the estimated one million Egyptians in Libya returned to
Egypt, according to the Egyptian press. (Note: Embassy Tripoli
considers this a low estimate, as in February and March 2007 many
hotels, restaurants, and shops in Tripoli closed because of a lack
of Egyptians to work in them, and the price of a taxi ride to Cairo
jumped ten fold to LD 250 - about USD 200 - amidst reports of mass
arrests and deportations. End note.)

6. (SBU) Also contributing to the precarious situation of Egyptian
workers in Libya has been the uncertain status of the
Libyan-Egyptian land border. According to Egyptian diplomats in
Tripoli, Libya closed the land border to most passenger traffic for
several months in late 2007; consequently, Egyptians were forced to
pay to fly back and forth from Libya. After briefly reopening in
early 2008, the Libyan-Egyptian land border is currently open only
for cargo traffic. Libyan officials reported that the closure of
the land border, coupled with erratic work visa requirements, has
prevented additional Egyptians from traveling to Libya to work but
has done little to encourage Egyptians already in Libya to return
home.

Libya Jumping-Off Point for Illegal Migrants
--------------------------------------------

7. (U) Libya is a prime departure point for Egyptians illegally
migrating to Europe, particularly Italy. 60 percent of all illegal

CAIRO 00000786 002 OF 002


immigrants who reach the Italian coast are Egyptian nationals,
according to a 2007 EU Commission Report, a trend that has remained
consistent over the past five years. Libya cooperates with Egypt to
reduce the number of Egyptians trying to transit through Libya to
Europe, though Libyan efforts to control its maritime border have
been largely ineffective. For instance, our informal discussions
with working class Egyptians reveal that Egyptian border guards
require Egyptians to present proof of a work contract in Libya in
order to exit Egypt. Additionally, Libya deports Egyptians
attempting to illegally reach Europe.

Labor Discussions Rise to Presidential Level
--------------------------------------------

8. (U) Egyptian labor in Libya is a major issue in discussions
between Egyptian President Mubarak and Libyan leader Qadhafi, and
during Qadhafi's most recent visit to Cairo in January 2008 he
agreed to exempt Egyptian workers from the USD 1000 entry
requirement. A bilateral Egyptian-Libyan labor committee, headed by
the Egyptian Minister of Manpower and his Libyan counterpart, is
charged with following up on labor issues between the two countries.
The two agreed in January 2008 on provision of 2,800 new jobs for
Egyptians in Libya during the year, according to the Egyptian
press.

Egyptians Critical of Government Response
-----------------------------------------

9. (U) The Egyptian government has widely publicized its efforts to
arrest and prosecute smugglers who have facilitated Egyptian illegal
travel to Europe, particularly as the migrants face dangers and
sometimes death on the journey. An Egyptian court sentenced 18 men
on January 29 to five years in prison for their role in organizing a
boat crossing for illegal migrants in which at least 21 people
drowned off Italy in November 2007. Many in the Egyptian public
seized on this incident as one in a long line of examples
demonstrating the GOE's inability to protect its citizens.

10. (U) Many Egyptians had a similar reaction to the case of nine
Egyptians sentenced to death in Libya for murders they committed in
Libya in the late 1990s, something that received widespread local
media coverage. Although several of the execution sentences were
commuted after the Egyptians agreed to pay about EGP 100,000 (USD
18,000) in "blood money" to the families of the deceased, two of the
Egyptian convicts were executed due to their failure to pay.
Egyptian press commentaries have asked why the government was unable
or unwilling to pay such a paltry sum to spare Egyptian lives, or at
least to extradite the criminals to Egypt.

Comment
-------

11. (SBU) Egyptian officials are walking a fine line on labor in
Libya. Encouraging workers to travel there employs some of Egypt's
large population of unskilled and semi-skilled unemployed workers.
However, it also has the potential to facilitate travel of Egyptians
attempting to illegally reach Europe, and exposes the government to
criticism for its lack of ability to employ Egyptians at home or to
protect them abroad.

12. (U) Tripoli minimize considered.
SCOBY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell On North Korea, Neo-Nazism, And Milo

With a bit of luck the planet won’t be devastated by nuclear war in the next few days. US President Donald Trump will have begun to fixate on some other way to gratify his self-esteem – maybe by invading Venezuela or starting a war with Iran. More>>

Victory Declared: New Stabilisation Funding From NZ As Mosul Is Retaken

New Zealand has congratulated the Iraqi government on the successful liberation of Mosul from ISIS after a long and hard-fought campaign. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On The Current US Moves Against North Korea

If Martians visited early last week, they’d probably be scratching their heads as to why North Korea was being treated as a potential trigger for global conflict... More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On The Lessons From Corbyn’s Campaign

Leaving partisan politics aside – and ignoring Jeremy Corbyn’s sensational election campaign for a moment – it has to be said that Britain is now really up shit creek... More>>

ALSO:

Another US Court: Fourth Circuit Rules Muslim Ban Discriminatory

ACLU: Step by step, point by point, the court laid out what has been clear from the start: The president promised to ban Muslims from the United States, and his executive orders are an attempt to do just that. More>>

ALSO: