Egyptians in Libya – to flee or to stay?
By Tom Westcott, February 27, 2015
Reprinted from IRIN News service
Photo: Mohamed Ben Khalifa/IRIN
Egyptian workers held in a detention centre for illegal immigrants near Misrata on board a bus to Tunisia, from where they will be flown home.
TRIPOLI, 27 February 2015 (IRIN) – The roundabouts in the Libyan capital of Tripoli have long been a place for Egyptians to find work. Every day, carpenters, builders, plumbers and decorators sit and wait, each man carrying the tools of his trade to make it easier for prospective employers.
Nowadays there are no Egyptians. Last week the Islamic State (IS) in Libya released a video showing the beheading of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Ghanaian. Since then, over 25,000 Egyptians have returned, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while hundreds of detained irregular migrants have been released from jail. Egyptians have reported an uptick in attacks – at one roundabout, a Libyan man was shot dead for trying to prevent a group of men harassing Egyptian workers.
But for some, the prospect of returning to a life in poverty in their home country makes staying on in Libya’s warzone a risk they are willing to take.
Revenge and revenge again
Libya is split between two rival parliaments and governments – the internationally-recognised ones in the eastern towns of Tobruk and Beida, and rival breakaway institutions, led by the Libya Dawn movement in the capital Tripoli.
The situation for Egyptians is worse in the west. The prime minister for the Tripoli-based government Omar Al-Hassi has urged all Egyptians to leave Libya, according to the state news agency LANA, admitting his government’s security authorities are unable to guarantee Egyptians’ safety. There are no firm figures for how many Egyptians are in Libya, with estimates ranging from 40,000 to over 100,000.