By Evline Meshreky
The flow of Libyan refugees, returning Egyptian migrants, and security turmoil from Egypt’s western neighbour could hurt the Egyptian economy, according to a paper published 12 August by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
The return of Egyptian migrants is the most significant consequence of the instability in Libya, it said.
Approximately 1.5 million Egyptians, most of whom are low and semi-skilled workers, were employed in Libya before the current crisis, said the International Organization for Migration.
These workers come from poorer governorates where the income generated in Libya supports large and vulnerable families. Losing their sole source of income, the report noted, would dramatically increase poverty and lead to widespread social unrest, inflationary pressure and destabilisation in Egypt.
If the fighting continues, the report said, around 250,000 Egyptians are expected to return within the next few weeks.
The World Bank estimates that formal and informal inward remittance flows from Libya accounted for 0.89% of Egyptian GDP.
The flow of Libyan refugees could worsen an already alarming economic situation, the report added. Although Egypt signed the 1951 Refugee Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol, it lacks experience in dealing with mass refugee flows.
In 2011, the conflict in Libya brought over 343,000 people to Egypt including 104,000 Egyptians, 163,000 Libyans, and almost 77,000 third country nationals, according to the report.
The Libyan government has so far failed to disarm militias, with the deteriorating security situation concentrated on the eastern side of the country. It is a growing security challenge for Egypt, which is already suffering as a consequence of Libya’s turmoil, facing smuggling of heavy weapons amongst other issues.