Two weeks ago, the First Arab-European Summit meeting was held in Sharm El-Sheikh in the presence of heads of government of the Arab and European countries to discuss joint challenges and mutual cooperation, particularly Arab-European relations in the political, security and economic fields.
The delegates to the summit meeting also discussed the crises in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Palestine and other issues including terrorism, organised crime, illegal migration, refugees and climate change.
The Egyptian cabinet’s Information Centre has published the most prominent recommendations of the Arab-EU Summit meeting, which included strengthening stability in both regions and enhancing cooperation between the Arab and European countries.
Migration, one of the main issues discussed, is divided into two main types, legal migration and illegal migration. Legal or organised migration is the kind that is carried out according to international and domestic requirements, according to the norms and rules applicable in each country.
Illegal migration, by contrast, refers to the migration of people from their home country to another country for purposes of permanent residence in ways that violate the immigration laws of that country.
In other words, it means crossing the borders of a country without permission and without respect for the legal rules and official procedures that govern immigration to that country that are stipulated in international and domestic law.
In recent years, illegal migration has been a source of concern for many states and governments, and it is a phenomenon that may be fuelled by many factors, including political, social and economic reasons that differ from one region to another and from one country to another.
In Egypt, Law 82 of 2016 on combatting illegal migration and the smuggling of migrants defines the crime of smuggling migrants as arrangements for the transfer of one person or several persons in an illegal manner from one country to another, in order to directly or indirectly obtain material or moral gain or for any other purpose.
Article 7 of this law sets out a penalty of life imprisonment and a fine of not less than LE200,000 if the crime of smuggling migrants results in the death of the smuggled migrant or permanent disability or incurable illness.
This penalty also applies if the number of smuggled migrants is more than 20 or if the migrants include women, children or persons with disabilities. More serious offences carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment under certain conditions.
This law also establishes the National Coordination Committee for Combatting and Preventing Illegal Migration and Human Trafficking under the supervision of the cabinet.
This committee is concerned to combat and prevent illegal migration through national and international efforts. It is also concerned to provide due care and services for smuggled migrants and witness-protection procedures according to the international commitments set out under the bilateral or multilateral international conventions in force in Egypt.
The third chapter of the same law specifies mechanisms for international judicial cooperation, stipulating that the competent Egyptian judicial and security authorities, in combatting the activities and crimes of smuggling migrants, will cooperate with their foreign counterparts through exchanging information, assistance and other forms of judicial or intelligence cooperation, in accordance with the provisions of the bilateral and multilateral conventions in force in Egypt or in accordance with the principle of reciprocity.
The UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime adopted by UN General Assembly Resolution 55/25 of 15 November 2000, with its supplementary protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air, is the main international instrument in the fight against transnational organised crime and the smuggling of migrants. It has 189 parties, including Egypt.
The legislation, security measures and efforts made by the Egyptian government on the national and international levels have succeeded in dealing with the phenomenon of illegal migration, such that according to 2018 statistics only 250 Egyptians reached Europe illegally, which is not a large number.
As a country of origin, of transit and of destination for migration, and because of its geographical importance, Egypt has always been a centre of attraction for migrants and has significantly welcomed refugees over recent years.
Migration may have advantages that may include living in a better place and interacting with different cultures. However, it should take place in a legal and official framework to assist in the development of the international community.
* The writer is an attorney at law.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 March, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: The Arab-European Summit and illegal migration