The third edition of the World Youth Forum (WYF), inaugurated by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, discussed diverse issues, among them peace, security and illegal immigration.
According to President Al-Sisi, who was in attendance, terrorism is an “evil industry” that uses religion to accomplish political interests and goals. “Arab youth are the most targeted group of terrorist organisations,” Al-Sisi said while stressing the need for collective action and solidarity with countries to fight and confront terrorism.
“We must be careful about terrorist elements that could be controlling and influencing young people by grabbing their attention in matters of their interests, then recruiting them in terrorist acts which most of the time is against their will after they realise what is going on, which sometimes is too late,” added Paul Bekkers, director secretary-general of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in the European Union. Bekkers stressed that youth are the future and should be consulted on all security matters.
Bekkers warned against cross-border threats which lead to violent extremism and terrorism, stressing that “there is a dire need to directly communicate with youth in order to immune them against ideological thoughts that can drive them to violence and extremism.”
According to Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri, issues resulting from the events since 2011 and beyond have aided in the destabilisation of international peace and security within the Arab region. Shoukri said the prevalence of terrorism has had an “economic, social and political impact that has not only affected the Arab region but the world.”
During the session, Youssef bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, warned against the great danger of the internet on Islamic communities, despite its benefits. Al-Othaimeen affirmed the need to tighten censorship in cyberspace. “Countries must initiate laws that severely criminalise Internet misuse because it plays an eminent role in spreading terrorism and terrorist ideologies,” Al-Othaimeen said.
Illegal immigration was another issue tackled by the forum. Naela Gabr, chairman of the National Coordinating Committee for Combating and Preventing Illegal Migration, cited Egypt as one country which succeeded in combating illegal migration. According to recent international statistics, there has not been a single ship that departed from Egyptian shores with illegal migrants for the past three years. And the number of illegal migrants from Egypt did not exceed 770 people throughout these years, Gabr confirmed.
“There is an escalating need to introduce new legislation that would clearly define the crime of migrant smuggling and to provide law enforcement agencies with necessary legal tools to tackle head on organised criminal networks of smugglers and bring them to justice, as they operate in impunity, trading the fate and aspirations of our young generations for profit,” argued Gabr.
Meanwhile, Othman Belbeisi, senior advisor at the International Organisation for Migration for the Middle East and North Africa region, noted that the Mediterranean Sea has a reputation for being the world’s most dangerous route for illegal migrants where thousands have lost their lives while crossing. Belbeisi refers to illegal migrants as irregular migrants, describing them as human beings and victims but not criminals. “The actual criminals are the smugglers who financially benefit from irregular migrants,” Belbeisi said.
Irregular migrants, according to Belbeisi, must realise the dangers they face if they illegally migrate to another country. “I have personally witnessed the sufferings of irregular migrants who were unaware of these dangers. Youth are the most vulnerable category of irregular migration due to the different pressures they are exposed to by their families. They have unrealistic ambitions, therefore, I always advise them to safely return to their home countries, which in most cases happens,” he said.
“We continue to support a safe and dignified return for irregular migrants to their home countries. Our teams are working around the clock to provide much needed humanitarian support in Tripoli and across Libya,” Belbeisi said.