Egyptian leader criticizes Europe’s handling of migrant crisis

Egypt’s leader has criticized Europe’s handling of the migrant crisis and refusal to accept refugees arriving at its borders, saying his own country has taken in millions of people who have left the country

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said at least 6 million people in Egypt were fleeing conflict and poverty at home. Unlike some other countries, he said, his government would not place migrants in refugee camps, but would allow them to live freely in their communities.

Over the years, people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East have embarked on perilous journeys across the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas in search of safety and a better life in Western Europe.

But after more than 1 million people arrived in 2015, EU countries erected concrete walls and barbed wire, installed drone surveillance systems and struck deals with Turkey and Libya to stop migrants.

“I’m talking about huge numbers, not fifty thousand or ten thousand, (that) our friends in Europe refuse to take,” el-Sissi said.

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

El-Sissi said his government has tightened border security in recent years and sought to prevent Egypt from becoming a point of departure for migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

“We don’t allow people to use Egypt as a transit point, to travel into the unknown, to face a very grim fate in the Mediterranean, while migrating to Europe,” he said.

El-Sissi’s comments were made at the World Youth Forum, an international youth conference organized by the Egyptian government in the Red Sea city of Sharm el-Sheikh.

With Europe’s Mediterranean borders restricted and tight security, a new route to the EU has emerged, through the forests and swamps of Eastern Europe.

In recent months, people from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere have flown to the Belarusian capital Minsk on tourist visas and then drove to the border — many of them apparently with the help of smugglers.

Three EU countries that border Belarus – Poland, Lithuania and Latvia – have accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of acting to destabilize their societies.

Poland has denied entry to thousands of migrants and denied them asylum, in violation of international human rights conventions. The country has been criticized by human rights groups at home and abroad.