Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi speaking during the opening of the World Youth Forum in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. AFP
Speaking at the WYF’s Model of United Nations-Human Rights Council, the president said that some countries did seek “sabotage in other states through conspiracies”, adding that Egypt was the only state that survived such attempts, unlike neighboring countries, which he refused to name.
“I do not want to name states [which have suffered destruction] because I do not want to cause them pain. Everyone is aware of the map of the region and the state of destruction it has suffered,” El-Sisi said.
He added that a rise in the number of refugees in Egypt or any other state hosting refugees was due to sabotage by some states that continue to seek to destroy the region.
Egypt does not have refugee camps, El-Sisi stressed, describing refugees hosted by Cairo as “guests in the country”.
“Egypt has six million refugees who arrived here due to conflicts, capacity constraints and the magnitude of poverty in neighboring countries. Our friends in Europe have refused to host them,” he said.
The president added that refugees in Egypt continue to live within society, and have access to education, medical treatment, and work.
“Perhaps our capabilities aren’t similar to those of rich countries, but we have provided what we have for them,” he said.
He said he does not allow Egypt to be a transit point for illegal migrants seeking to reach Europe.
Egypt hosts 269,826 registered refugees and asylum-seekers from over 50 countries countries, according to a fact sheet published by the UNHCR as of November 2021.
Syrians represent more than half of the figure with a population of 136,061, followed by Sudanese at 51,800 and South Sudanese at 20,627.
This is not the first time for the Egyptian president to discuss the issue of refugees and irregular migration during his speeches.
He said last year that Egypt never used the refugees issue to blackmail European partners.
Egypt has pushed with efforts since 2016 to stop flows of illegal immigration from its coasts since 2016, passing a law aimed to curb irregular migration and crack down on human trafficking amid a hike in the number of migrants leaving Egypt for Europe.
The law, passed by parliament in 2016, came following the sinking in September of a migrant boat carrying around 450 people off the coast of Egypt's Mediterranean coast. The accident left 202 people dead.
While the legislation does not punish the migrants themselves, it imposes jail terms for those convicted of smuggling migrants or acting as brokers or facilitators.