Tripoli, March 23: Labour Minister Mustafa Rujbani has said that Libya will “give priority” to Egyptian workers wishing to work in . . .[restrict]the country. He was speaking in Cairo where he had been invited for talks on the issue by his opposite Egyptian number, Fathy Fekry.
Following a meeting on Thursday with Egyptian Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri, Rajbani said that Libya would ease procedures for Egyptians seeking work in Libya. It would also make it easier for Egyptians to obtain Libyan visas.
He added that Libya would ensure that Egyptian workers in Libya enjoyed all their rights.
As part of the agreement, Fekry said that for its part Egypt would step up efforts to stem illegal Egyptian immigration into Libya.
Before the revolution there were an estimated 1.5 million Egyptians in Libya according to the International Organisation for Migration. They were the biggest expatriate group in the country. Most were unskilled labourers.
The vast majority left the country during the uprising and most, around a million, have not returned, mainly because of new Libyan visa rules. These were introduced last November. The streets outside the Libyan embassy in Cairo are regularly crowded with would-be returnees seeking employment visas. There have been days when it has been almost besieged by them.
The issue of Egyptians returning to Libya is a major concern for Egypt. Not only are the former workers not sending home money, they are a burden on the country, having joined the ranks of Egypt’s unemployed.
The Egyptians had presented Rajbani with a draft agreement on employment cooperation between the two countries. It is not known whether it has been signed.
Earlier, the new Egyptian ambassador in Tripoli said that the return of Egyptian workers to Libya was viewed as a priority by Cairo in its relations with Libya.
Speaking in Cairo, Hisham Abdel-Wahab, who arrives to takes up his post on Monday, added that collaboration on reconstruction and possible cooperation in power projects were also high on Egypt’s list of issues it hope to discuss with Libya. He was particularly keen to see Egyptian companies joining in tenders for Libyan contracts.
The issue of visas has also concerned Libya because Libyans have had to have visas to enter Egypt since last year. Prior to last year’s revolutions in both countries. Libyans and Egyptians could come and go relatively freely.
The Libyan authorities have requested the Egyptians to change the rules. However, Ambassador Abdel-Wahab indicated that there would be no move until Libya also relaxed its rules. “The imposition of Egyptian visas on the Libyans is a reciprocity matter but there are exceptions,” he said. These included businessmen, the husbands of Egyptian women and their children attending school in Egypt.
The new ambassador added that the two counties had in fact agreed that the system needed to be revised.
Egypt has not yet said that it intends to ease visa rules for Libyans in response to Rajbani’s statement.