CAIRO – 11 April 2018: Libya is in dire need of Egyptian labor to work in Libya’s safe places during its reconstruction process, after witnessing destruction and instability, particularly in Sirte and Benghazi, over the last seven years, according to Libyan Labor Minister Al-Mehdi Al Amin.
On the sidelines of the 45th Arab Labor Conference from April 8 to 15 in Cairo, Amin held a meeting with Egypt’s Minister of Manpower Mohamed Saafan to discuss Libya’s need for Egyptian workers in the upcoming stage, especially after partially achieving stability, and to determine the safe areas where the workers could work.
The 45th Arab Labor Conference held from April 8 to 15 in Cairo-Press Photo
During the meeting, Amin said that Egyptian workers are efficient and Libya is ready to receive them in regions enjoying full security and stability.
In the same context, Saafan mentioned that Egypt is ready to send the necessary Egyptian labor to Libya and to organize training centers to prepare Libyans for different jobs and professions, expressing his hope for Libya’s stability.
In this regard, in a telephone interview with the TV host Tamer Amin, Saafan remarked that sending Egyptian labor to Libya will be discussed with Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that they will be sent to safe regions.
“Before sending an Egyptian worker, we should ensure the security of Egyptian labor participating in Libya’s reconstruction,” he added.
Commenting on whether it would be safe for workers or not, Deputy Chair of the General Federation of Egyptian Trade Unions Magdi El-Badawi told Egypt Today that areas controlled by the government are safe for workers and Egypt will not send them unless it could ensure their safety.
He believes that they would respond and go back to Libya, especially since not all Egyptian workers have left Libya and some have gone back to Libya searching for income, although Egypt has warned them of the situation there.
However, he stated that the number of Egyptian laborers that still exist in Libya is not determined, as many of them have left Egypt illegally.
Egyptian workers suffering amid Libyan crisis
Libya has been a main destination for many Egyptians to seek jobs due to “geographical proximity and various open border policies that until 2006 allowed Egyptians to enter and reside in Libya with ID only,” according to a 2010 report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
Since the February 2011 revolution that overthrew long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi, Libya has become the largest security threat facing Egypt due to the civil war sparked between Libyan factions.
Eastern Libya has been controlled by jihadist groups and Islamic fighters due to the weak interim authority and the civil war. These groups have caused several movements hostile to Egypt across the border and the rise of organized crimes such as arm smuggling, drug trafficking and illegal immigration across the Egyptian-Libyan border.
Due to the security breakdown in eastern Libya, Egyptian workers have increasingly become victims of kidnappings and murder by jihadist groups.
In February 2015, 21 Coptic Christian laborers were kidnapped and beheaded by the Islamic State.
The crisis in Libya has led to an exacerbation of Egypt’s unemployment problem, as millions of Egyptians who used to work in Libya have fled the conflict.
According to the IOM report, an estimated 330,000 to 1.5 million Egyptians were working in Libya before the civil war, who predominantly came from rural areas and Lower Egypt; the majority of them have completed only a basic education.
After the crisis had been sparked, many Egyptian residents fled Libya through the Ras Jedir crossing, but many of them have been stuck in Libyan-Tunisian borders after Tunisia had closed the crossing due to the increasing influx of Libyan refugees. Many Egyptians have been killed or robbed on border.
In this regard, the government facilitated the departure of Egyptian workers fleeing Libya by sending flights to Tunisia to transport them, as 46 planes were utilized to transport passengers from the Djerba and Gebes airports in Tunisia. Egypt intensified its communication with the Tunisian authorities to help with the evacuation of Egyptians on the border.
Egypt’s role in reforming Libya
The frequent failures of international reconciliation attempts and weapons falling into the hands of different militant groups, which threatened Egypt’s border, forced Egypt to play a major role in solving the Libyan crisis.
Since 2014, Libya has been drawn to a civil war between two major factions, one led by Khalifa Haftar, commander of the eastern “Operation Dignity” forces, and Fayez al-Sarraj, head of the U.N.-backed Libyan Government of National Accord, as well as other militant groups.
Therefore, there is no official side recognized by all parties in Libya, but there are two opposing factions, roughly equivalent in terms of power, competing for legitimacy. Nonetheless, neither side appears to be able to tip the scales of this conflict in its favor.
Policymakers in Egypt believe that Libya should have a unified body representing all sides in the war-torn country. However, this requires the elimination of terrorist groups that are plaguing the country and standing in the way of any regional or international attempt for reconciliation.
Major Libyan military factions convened in Cairo on Tuesday, March 20, 2018 for negotiations aimed at consolidating the Libyan army - press photo
Egypt is aware that any intervention in Libya’s affairs will enrage the Libyan people due to religious and national sensitivities.
Therefore, Egypt called for a meeting in August 2014 to discuss the formation of a coalition force with the United States and other Arab nations. The final recommendation of the meeting, held in Cairo, did not suggest the formation of any Arab or international military intervention in Libya, but it called for the immediate cessation of all armed operations in order to support the political process in Libya.
In December 2015, the Skhirat Agreement was signed by major parties in the Libyan conflict under the supervision of U.N. Envoy Martin Kobler in the city of Skhirat, Morocco. The agreement recommends a peaceful transition of power and the establishment of a national unity government. However, the agreement failed to achieve the desired stability on the ground because it lacked consensus.
In December 2016, Cairo hosted a conference attended by Libyan officials and representatives from the country’s numerous factions, where they issued five proposed amendments to the agreement. The conference concluded with an agreement to amend the 8th article of the Skhirat Agreement that outlined the authorities of the Libyan army chief commander.
In January 2017, Egypt invited the two major Libyan factions to discuss the amendments to the agreement, which mainly included a change in the duties of the army commander and measures to maintain the independence of the armed forces and separate them from political conflicts.
Seeking reformation, Libya is not only trying to unify its army, but is also longing to revive its political functions by conducting presidential and legislative elections by mid-2018.
Former Libyan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Aref Ali Al-Nayed has officially announced his candidacy for the historic 2018 presidential bid. The son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, will also run in the upcoming presidential election.
Former Libyan Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Aref Ali Al-Nayed-Press Photo
Nayed revealed that he has been working on a significant platform in cooperation with a young team so that Libya survives and overcomes its ongoing crisis.
Despite the fact that no law has been issued regarding regulating the elections, solutions were suggested by politicians and presidential candidates to make sure elections will be conducted by the scheduled date. For instance, during an interview with Egypt Today on March 12, presidential candidate Nayed suggested making some amendments to the already-existing law to regulate elections. He argued that even the constitution is still disagreed upon by various Libyan factions.