Libyan authorities on Wednesday deported 238 Egyptian workers, including 28 fishermen, claiming that they had entered the country illegally.
Elanani Hammouda, head of security in Egypt's Marsa Matrouh governorate (adjacent to the Libyan border), said he had received a complaint from Libyan authorities that the 238 deportees had lacked valid visas. Some of them, Libyan authorities also claimed, had been found to be carrying the Hepatitis C virus.
According to the complaint, Hammouda added, the 28 Egyptian fishermen had entered Libyan territorial waters without permission.
The deported workers, however, deny the claims, insisting that they had entered the country legally. They insist that the mass deportation was carried out "for no valid reason," Egypt's official news agency MENA reported on Thursday.
Libya is a main destination for Egyptian migrants seeking work opportunities abroad. According to a 2010 report by the International Organisation for Migration, some 1.5 million Egyptians had been working in Libya at the time.
The number of Egyptian expats in the country, however, fell sharply following the NATO-backed Libyan uprising in 2011/12, which saw the ouster and death of long-time Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
In February, reports emerged of Egyptian Coptic Christians expatriates in Libya being tortured by Islamic extremists, who accused them of proselytising in Majority-Muslim Libya.
According to a source from Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church, a group of Salafist Muslims had attacked a church in Benghazi and detained roughly 100 Egyptian Coptic expatriates.
The detained Copts were tortured by their captors, who also shaved their heads and used acid to burn off the crosses tattooed on their wrists, the church source – who preferred anonymity – told Ahram Online at the time.