Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi during a press conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna on Monday 17 December 2018 (Photo: Egyptian Presidency Spokesperson)
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi stressed Egypt's humanitarian and moral commitment to the safety and welfare of all refugees, including 5 million refugees living in Egypt, as well as Cairo's commitment to achieving stability in the Middle East.
The president's remarks came during a press conference with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna as part of the president's official visit to the central European country.
The Egyptian president is set to attend the High Level Forum Africa-Europe in Vienna on Tuesday.
El-Sisi reaffirmed Egypt's commitment to the welfare and safety of 5 million refugees living within its borders, including 11,000 new comers this year..
"We treat our 5 million refugees the way we treat our citizens; Egypt has a policy of not housing refugees in camps. We did not use these refugees as bargaining chips; our policies on this issue are based first and foremost on moral and humanitarian considerations before security concerns," the president said.
"We did not allow them to move on to Europe. Not a single boat carrying migrants sailed for Europe."
"We will not allow Africans or migrants [on such boats] to perish at sea," he said.
"This is a principle, a moral commitment to refugees and irregular migrants," the president explained.
Chancellor Kurz opened the short remarks-only conference by praising Egypt's economic reform and its policies to curb irregular migration.
Kurz also announced the signing of ten memorandums of understanding in a number of fields, including education, technology, and research.
"There are 600 Austrian companies operating in Egypt and it is one of the most important trade partners in Africa and the Middle East," Kurz said.
"I also want to express my appreciation for the dynamic economic reform process underway in Egypt. I would like to thank your excellency for Egypt's efforts in combatting illegal migration," Kurz said.
Austria has seen less migrants coming from countries like Italy, in part due to Egypt's efforts in combatting illegal migration, the Austrian chancellor said.
There has been success in disrupting human trafficking routes, Kurz said, adding that these are strong starting points for more cooperation between the two countries.
"Egypt has proved that no one will leave Egypt illegally. This has become a confirmed fact," Kurz said.
Kurz said Egypt and Austria also agreed on the resumption in 2019 of a high joint committee between the two countries, which has not met since 2010, to coordinate cooperation in the economic, education and other fields.
The Egyptian president and the Austrian Chancellor also tackled the issue of terrorism and its effect on stability.
El-Sisi said the instability in some Middle Eastern countries affects stability in the Mediterranean and Europe.
Both leaders agreed on working to restore stability to conflict zone countries in the area.
"Those [terrorists] leaving conflict zones, where would they head? Should we allow them into our countries or other countries in conflict?," El-Sisi said.
Since a 2016 boat disaster killed tens of migrants, including Egyptians, Egypt has been strengthening efforts to combat irregular migration to Europe through a new law that imposes harsher penalties on traffickers.