On October 30, the first phase of an “80 million euro border management programme” was signed between the EU and Egypt during a visit to Cairo by the European Commissioner for Neighborhood and enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi.
The funding will help Egypt’s border and coast guards, Reuters news agency reported, while providing for “the purchase of surveillance equipment such as search and rescue vessels, thermal imaging cameras and satellite positioning systems”.
Laurent de Boeck, head of the United Nations International Organization for Migration’s Egypt office, said they would help implement the deal, alongside CIVIPOL, an agency of the French Interior Ministry. .
The agreement echoes similar agreements between the EU and Turkey, Libya and Morocco, aimed at preventing refugees and migrants from reaching Europe. These agreements have been repeatedly proven to trap desperate and vulnerable men, women and children in cycles of abuse and exploitation as they attempt to reach a safe country.
When I heard the news, I thought of the work of Irish legal scholar Seán Columb, who published a book in 2020 called Trading Life: Organ Trafficking, Illicit Networks and Exploitation. It was based on his years of research on migrants and refugees in Egypt, and specifically how they can end up selling their organs or being tricked into having them harvested.
He interviewed people who were trafficked to Egypt from Sudan with promises of non-existent job offers before having their organs removed, as well as others who voluntarily chose to sell a kidney. to fund their journey to Europe; to pay for health care for family members; or to repay the debts they have accumulated while trying to flee their country of origin. Of those who agree on a price, some receive all of the money they were promised, while others are left with nothing. Many have fled war zones or dictatorships and sold their kidneys out of desperation, after becoming disillusioned with the possibility of being taken to a safe country through the UN or other legal channels, says- he. Subsequently, some suffered from trauma, shame and long-term health problems, which prevented them from working.
Egypt is a police state with an abysmal human rights record. Yet the EU, which has condemned the Egyptian state for its mistreatment of refugees and its own citizens, is actively funding the expansion of military controls
— Sean Columbus
Organ harvesting, especially when it occurs without consent, is just one extreme form of exploitation that migrants and refugees can face when left without support, legal avenues and other options. . As Europe hardens its borders against people from poor or war-torn countries who cannot access legal pathways to safety, exploitation and abuse of all kinds will intensify.
Columbus writes in his book that “the relation or pattern of economic exchange [where a migrant will sell a kidney in order to fund a journey towards Europe] developed alongside the punitive immigration controls and containment strategies established under the EUTF. The EUTF is the European Union Trust Fund for Africa: a multi-billion euro pot created in 2015, which is spent in 26 African countries with the aim of stopping migration.
Border controls, he writes, “exacerbate the level of abuse and exploitation to which migrants, regardless of their legal status, are exposed. In today’s global political climate, criminal policy has become synonymous with migration management.
When I spoke to him on the phone this week, Columbus said he was looking at the new EU-Egypt deal. “Things are going to get worse now, obviously,” he said. “Egypt is a police state with an abysmal human rights record. Yet the EU, which has condemned the Egyptian state for its mistreatment of refugees and its own citizens, is actively funding the expansion of military controls. All of this money is spent to reduce irregular migration, but it generates greater demand for smuggling services and proactively denies people the right to seek asylum.
“Somebody has to start wondering what’s going on with that money… How do these programs work in practice?” he said.
In an email, an EU spokesperson said that respecting human rights when supporting migration and border management is a priority for them, and that full respect for human rights man will be an “essential and integrated element of this action”. He said that in addition to materials, the project would involve training for Egyptian border guards and coast guards who would adopt a “human rights-based approach”.
In 2020 Amnesty International documented how Sudanese refugees and migrants protesting in Cairo against the killing of a child by an Egyptian policeman were retaliated with tear gas and water cannons, while many were arrested.
Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch said at least 30 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers had been detained in Egypt for protesting outside the UN Refugee Agency. Some were later subjected to forced labor and beatings.
The new deal came days before a BBC investigation was published documentary titled Death on the Border, which examines what happened last June 24 at the land border between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla.
At least 23 Africans died when Moroccan security forces fired huge amounts of tear gas and beat people lying helpless on the ground. The inquest showed how some were crushed to death; others fought violently. “They beat you to see if you were dead. If you weren’t dead, they would hit you harder. They only left if they thought you were dead,” one survivor said.
The Moroccan Association for Human Rights says more than 70 people are still missing. The Spanish mediator said 470 people had been pushed back across the Spanish border to Morocco without taking into account legal provisions.
Two months before the mass deaths, in April 2022, Morocco and Spain signed an agreement on border control. Two weeks after the deaths, the EU renewed its own agreement with Morocco on stopping migration. In August, the EU followed up by agreeing to pay Morocco 500 million euros.