“I could not bear to live in Egypt,” this is how Youssef described his living situation in his home country before he left behind his pregnant wife and embarked on a perilous migration journey across the sea.
Although leaving his family “was a difficult feeling,” the “most difficult” for the twenty-something young man is “the feeling of death around you,” referring to a four-day boat trip that started from Egypt and then Libya, before finally arriving in Italy.
“I felt like life was receding,” Youssef, who wanted to reach Italy as an illegal immigrant, told the Guardian.
The Guardian said in its report that the Egyptians “face the danger of the sea in a dangerous new migration to Europe,” noting that poverty has put thousands in the grip of human smugglers.
She points out that some, like Youssef, have resorted to the “only means of escape,” which is migration boats to Europe, despite the dangers of these journeys.
Youssef, who recently got married and is expecting his first child in a few months, says he traveled because of the high cost of living in Egypt. He was earning only about 2,000 Egyptian pounds (about $80) as a driver.
Three months after his marriage, he decided to leave, and contacted a smuggler who he met through a Facebook group, and after he arrived in Italy, he was able to send money to his family.
He added, “I could not afford my living costs. Before I went to Italy, I only saved 200 Egyptian pounds a month.”
The cost of living in Egypt has risen in light of the high inflation rates, which have reached 15 percent.
The Egyptian pound has lost more than half of its value since the beginning of this year against the US dollar, after the Central Bank of Egypt recently decided to adopt a flexible exchange rate.
The poverty rate, according to official data, is 30 percent of the total population of about 104 million.
Analysts believe that the decision to float the local currency was a condition during long negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, under which the Egyptian government obtained a loan.
The report notes that the migration path to Europe has been active recently, after immigration numbers declined over the past five years, with the Egyptian authorities tightening measures to combat illegal immigration with the support of the European Union.
Data from the Italian Ministry of the Interior indicates that more than 20,000 Egyptians have arrived in Italy via Libya so far this year, nearly three times the number registered last year.
The newspaper indicates that one of the reasons for the revival of migration routes is the release of prominent smugglers in Egypt, after their prison terms have expired.
Experts said the top smugglers have now served a five-year prison sentence and have returned to the only profession available to them.
Smugglers use large fishing boats, “which could have been used in legal business to transport people across the Mediterranean,” according to the Guardian.
“We have seen increased crossings from Tobruk in Libya since the end of October, when several boats with many people left from Tobruk and reached the southern coast of Sicily in Italy,” said Maurice Stirl of Alarm Phone, which provides relief to migrants stranded at sea.
“Despite their large size, the boats are overcrowded and dangerous. We are in winter now so the weather is changeable, anything can happen at sea. It is a very risky form of travel. The journey is long, and there are no NGOs doing operations,” he said. The rescue is in eastern Libya, so the boats have to get close to the European borders in order to be rescued.”