With more alluring options being shut off, Egypt is gradually becoming the jumping-off ground for migrants and refugees, coming from the desert near the Sudanese border, Swedish Radio reported.
“The number of migrants coming to Egypt over the southern border with Sudan has increased recently,” said Mohammed al-Kashef from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, who has studied migration in the coastal city of Alexandria for years.
His estimation is shared by the UN refugee agency UNHCR, which has painted the same picture: the old smuggling route through the south-Egyptian desert is on the rise and so are attempts to cross the Mediterranean from Egypt. So far, however, no exact figures have been produced due to shady nature of the trafficking business.
According to al-Kashef, a future outlook currently is hard to estimate, due to several factors with yet unknown outcome.
“Everything depends on how the EU’s agreements with Turkey will work. Instead of the closed roads across the sea to Greece or the Balkans, the fleeing Syrians may switch to Egypt via Sudan,” al-Kashef said.
Seventeen-year old Adnan (assumed name) is one of the migrants who availed themselves of the newly found route. He came in through the desert with his fellow migrants in a body of a truck.
“The smugglers told us to get a firm grip. If someone fell off, they would have been deserted,” Adnan told Swedish Radio.
Recently, concerns over the EU-Turkey migration deal flared up anew amid increased tensions between Brussels and Ankara. Both parties were left in a diplomatic stalemate, as Turkey firmly rejected the bloc’s calls for mitigating amendments in anti-terror laws. The wrangle between Brussels and Ankara is dreaded to be able to wreck the EU-Turkey migration deal, which was reached in March 2016 and was hailed by the EU leaders as central for stemming the flow of mid-Eastern migrants via Turkey and the Aegean Sea to Greek islands.
In exchange for its readiness to shut the door for illegal migrants, Turkey received a four billion dollar package to bolster its refugee camps and was promised visa-free access to the EU for Turkish citizens, as well as prospects to become a full-fledged EU member. Simultaneously, however, many EU states expressed reservation, citing “insufficient democratic standards in Turkey.”