Syrian refugees fleeing Egypt’s turmoil risk their lives on sea voyage to Europe
Updated Oct. 11, 2013 4:56 p.m. ET The euro zone and the International Monetary Fund were thrown into each other’s arms when Greece’s debt crisis began early in 2010. Now, officials say, they could be heading for a divorce. As representatives from both sides meet at the end of this week in Washington to discuss Greece’s need for extra cash and a lighter debt load, the clashes that have built up over the past three years are coming to a head. Antonio Borges in a 2011 photo. Bloomberg News “The divorce between Europe and the IMF is real,” Antonio Borges , a former European director at the IMF, said in an interview in June, just months before he died of cancer at the age of 63. “The fund is going back to its normal way of business. It is an institution used to being alone in calling the shots,” Mr. Borges said. Enlarge Image Mr. Borges arrived at the fund in November 2010, six months after the first Greek bailout was agreed. He left 12 months later citing ill healthbut said in the interview that the real reason was his marginalization over the design of the 73 billion (roughly $99 billion) Greek program.
With many Arab countries keeping their doors closed to Syrians, Hassan chose to come to Egypt where life was relatively cheap and a decades-old policy allowed Syrian to enter without a prior visa. According to the U.N.’s refugee agency, Egypt is host to at least 111,000 people from Syria, though the organization says the actual number is likely higher. The backlash from Egypt’s new leaders as well as worsening economic conditions has driven many to take to the sea. About 3,300 Syrians, including more than 230 unaccompanied children, arrived off Italy’s coast in August and the first half of September, according to the UNHCR. Most were coming from Egypt. “We had no idea that it would be this dangerous,” Hassan said. Like almost all other Syrians or Palestinians who lived in Syria caught trying to illegally leave Egypt, they face just two options: indefinite imprisonment or a one-way ticket out of Egypt. That choice is complicated since only a few countries are willing to accept the Syrians, and even fewer would welcome the Palestinians. In Syria, they will likely face arrest upon return and in Lebanon, Syrians are given just a 48-hour visa in most cases. The majority have opted for Turkey, host to more than 460,000 Syrian refugees and sprawling refugee camps. Those with money to spare have gone on to Malaysia, where Syrians can easily obtain visas. In a statement, Amnesty International’s head of refugee and migrants’ rights, Sherif Elsayed-Ali, criticized Egyptian authorities for “compelling many refugees from Syria into life-threatening situations, including entrusting their lives to smugglers.” An Egyptian lawyer who works for an international refugee agency told the AP that prosecutors hand these cases over to state security officers.