Egypt has taken to the airwaves to raise awareness among young people and their families about the severe consequences of illegal migration. The government produced a host of radio ads and two serial programs last month to fight the practice, which has been growing wildly.
“The lessons presented in the series will contribute to raising the awareness of young people and expand their understanding of the risks they run by taking illegal immigration routes,” Naela Gabr, head of the National Coordinating Committee on Combating and Preventing Illegal Migration, told the state news agency MENA.
Gabr added that the radio series attempts to clearly depict the problems and troubles that illegal migrants face.
One of them, “Where Are You Going, Salama?” premiered late last month and will run through the end of June. The story traces the journey of young Salama and his friends, who are exploited by smugglers.
“The series presents an example of how the minds of young people who are looking for a better world can be manipulated. In trying to chase their dreams, they live a nightmare amid great dangers,” Gabr said.
The Egyptian Ministry of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs also launched a major awareness campaign called “Think before you migrate.” The campaign relies on social media networks including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as these platforms can be used to reach large numbers of young people.
The campaign includes a series of TV and radio ads that highlight the dangers of illegal migration as well as face-to-face meetings with young people in the governorates with high illegal migration rates. During the meetings, young people are shown the dangers of illegal migration and taught about legal migration processes under Egyptian and international law.
The campaign also includes a radio drama series titled “The Way to Safety,” in addition to TV shows and a documentary that reveals the economic impacts of illegal migration and its dangers to the national economy.
Minister of Immigration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram Ebeid said during an economic conference last year that the particularly impoverished coastal governorates of Kafr el-Sheikh, Gharbia and Fayoum see the highest numbers of young people who illegally migrate to Europe. Most of them go to France and Italy.
In October, the Egyptian parliament passed a law to fight both illegal migration and human trafficking.
According to the law, anyone who smuggles migrants, attempts to do so, participates in the smuggling process or provides any services while aware of the crime shall pay a fine of up to 200,000 Egyptian pounds ($11,000) or serve time in prison.
“The initiatives launched by the Egyptian Ministry of Migration and Egyptian Expatriate Affairs as well as the National Coordinating Committee on Combating and Preventing Illegal Migration come at the perfect time, as illegal migration rates are at their peak ... amid unrest in the Middle East region,” Entessar el-Saeed, a human rights activist and chair of the Cairo Center for Development, told Al-Monitor.
Saeed said the choice of radio and television to address young people and their families is a very good idea because radio stations and TV channels are followed by many Egyptians and can have a great effect on them. “This approach can greatly contribute to the elimination of illegal migration in Egypt,” she said.
Saeed also lauded recent government moves to combat illegal migration, including the law that was passed in 2016. However, she added, “The problem is not with issuing the law, but with putting it into effect and holding accountable those who illegally migrate or help in the illegal migration process”.
The human rights activist pointed out that awareness campaigns and radio and television drives are crucial and can be effective, but the dilemma of illegal migration can be tackled only if problems such as unemployment and poverty are addressed.
“These are the main causes of illegal migration, and finding solutions to them — especially by creating many job opportunities for young people — can put an end to such a lethal phenomenon,” she said.
According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics, Egypt’s unemployment rate stood at 12% in the first quarter of 2017.
Economist Ahmed el-Shami said that illegal migration can also have a dramatic effect on the country’s national economy. “Losing the country’s manpower can be devastating to the national economy, which relies heavily on human resources as one of its major pillars to grow,” Shami told Al-Monitor.
He added, “That is why the government has to use all its powers to put an end to the dilemma of illegal migration. Eliminating it can be one of the bellwethers for development and progress.”