Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi addressed young Egyptians seeking to migrate in the light of the boat disaster last week which killed at least 170 migrants while en route to Italy.
In a speech during in the inauguration of the first stage of a housing project in Alexandria, El-Sisi said that there was no “justification or excuse for such death of human beings from Egypt and abroad" and also called on young people to have hope and not seek to migrate, warning that Egypt "cannot be a state of refugees."
The housing project, named “Portent of Benevolence” consists of 1,600 housing units for the same number of families. It is funded by a group of businessmen and donations from the National Bank of Egypt.
El-Sisi said that this was a different project than the state project underway to move the residents of dangerous slums in the country to 170,000 housing units in at Al-Asmarat district in Mokattam in eastern Cairo.
“For any member of our youth to travel this way, he pays a lot of money, whether he was able to get it himself or borrow it,” El-Sisi said.
El-Sisi said that “illegal migration” should be combated whether to or from Egypt or vice versa; yet said that the phenomenon was something that the state can’t face alone.
“Egypt has 5,000 km in terms of land and sea ports. The state can’t control it alone one hundred percent. The society should have a role in this,” El-Sisi said.
On Saturday, El-Sisi ordered for the prosecution of "wrongdoers" behind the capsizing of the boat, mandating the government coordinate with the parliament to finalise procedures related to approving a law that combats "illegal migration.”
The death toll from the capsizing of the boat on Wednesday off Egypt’s Mediterranean coast reached 170 people on Monday, with a total of 164 people rescued, including 117 Egyptians and 43 foreigners, as well as the boat’s four crew members who have been arrested.
“Is there hope? Yes, there is. I will speak in particular about Kafr El-Sheikh,” he said during his speech, going on to talk about a large fish farm project that was to be opened in the coastal governorate, and would be completed by next February or March, describing it as a project that would be one of the biggest in Egypt in that field.
“We won’t leave you. Why are you leaving your country? Are there no job opportunities? No, there are,” El-Sisi told youth who wish to migrate.
In particular, he said that Kafr El-Sheikh itself currently has six to eight factories that are ready to operate, and can provide 100-200 job opportunities in each factory.
“Is there hope? Yes there is, and there is even high hope,” El-Sisi said.
“Egypt cannot be a country of refugees; there are powerful pressure and efforts being exerted against you, Egyptians. You have to know this, but you also need to know that we need to work to change the reality that we are living,” El-Sisi said.
El-Sisi introduced an initiative that relies on using change from transactions inside banks, to deposit it in a bank account that is used to fund housing projects.
“Can’t we take change say 50 Egyptian piasters and put it in an account to fund such housing projects?” El-Sisi said.
“Yes there is the Long Live Egypt fund, just like there are charity organisations. But here, you’re talking about a stronger mechanism. You’re talking about the transactions of 20-30 million people. If we’re able to use one pound of change, you’ll be able to collect EGP 10-12 million,” he said.
“If you allow me, I want such money to fund such projects. How can I take it? I don’t know,” El-Sisi said, asking banks to look for a mechanism for it to be applied.
The Egyptian president also discussed “doubts” that lead to the shaking of people’s trust in themselves and their country due to the spreading of unfounded information.
“Such doubts and the defeat of people’s determination is something that can’t be accepted,” he said.
“We have a state and an army and police that won’t allow anyone to harm us. The coordination is ongoing in order that the armed forces can be deployed in six hours to protect the country. We won’t leave it and we won’t lose it. I’m responsible in front of God and you and history to secure it until the last moment,” El-Sisi said.