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European Union announces €7.4 billion package of aid for Egypt

European Union announces €7.4 billion package of aid for Egypt

The European Union on Sunday announced a €7.4 billion aid package for cash-strapped Egypt amid concerns that economic pressure and conflicts and chaos in neighbouring countries could drive more migrants to European shores.

The package is scheduled to be signed during a visit by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and the leaders of Belgium, Italy, Austria, Cyprus and Greece, according to Egyptian officials.

The package includes both grants and loans over the next three years for the Arab world’s most populous country, according to the European Union Mission in Cairo.

According to a document from the EU mission in Egypt, the two sides have promoted their cooperation to the level of a “strategic and comprehensive partnership,” paving the way for expanding Egypt-EU cooperation in various economic and non-economic areas.

The EU will provide assistance to Egypt’s government to fortify its borders especially with Libya, a major transit point for migrants fleeing poverty and conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, and will support the government in hosting Sudanese who have fled nearly a year of fighting between rival generals in their country.

Egypt has for decades been a refuge for migrants from sub-Saharan Africa trying to escape war or poverty. For some, Egypt is a destination and a haven, the closest and easiest country for them to reach. For others, it is a point of transit before attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Europe.

Migrants arrive at a refugee camp on the Tunisia-Libyan border, after fleeing from the internal conflict in Libya for neighbouring countries like Egypt
Migrants arrive at a refugee camp on the Tunisia-Libyan border, after fleeing from the internal conflict in Libya for neighbouring countries like Egypt - Lefteris Pitarakis/AP2011

While the Egyptian coast has not been a major launching pad for people smugglers and human traffickers sending overcrowded boats across the Mediterranean to Europe, Egypt faces migratory pressures from the region, with the added looming threat that the Israel-Hamas war will spill across its borders.

The package drew criticism from international rights groups over Egypt’s human rights record. Amnesty International decried the deal and urged European leaders not to be complicit with human rights violations taking place in Egypt.

“EU leaders must ensure that the Egyptian authorities adopt clear benchmarks for human rights, said Amnesty International’s Head of the European Institutions Office, Eve Geddie in a statement. Geddie pointed to Egypt’s restrictions on media and freedom of expression and a crackdown on civil society.