Libya, one of the countries richest in oil in the Arab region, has been home to more than a million Egyptian citizens since the 1970s.
Be it teachers, doctors or even hard labourers, Egyptians have been mostly filling jobs that remain unfilled by lack of manpower in Libya, to sustain a better financial income. However, since the beginning of the Libyan insurgency against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan boarders have been troubled areas.
After August 2013, the Libyan insurgency and the NATO intervention led to the increased usage of heavy weapons by different rebel groups and militias who started to clash over territories and influence.
The International Organization for Migration said that after the Arab Spring only 173,873 Egyptians out of 796,915 migrants wanting to cross the Egyptian-Libyan border to flee violence, arrived safely.
On Sunday, 21 Egyptian labourers were murdered at the hands of a division of “Islamic State” in Tripoli. The video posted by the “IS” activists provoked fear for the other Egyptians who are still residing in Libya.
Speaking to a group of Egyptians who are staying there, and some of those who managed to come back after years of labour, they said they prefer to stay, even amid the escalating violence, rather than returning to Egypt and “starving to death”.
“After watching what happened yesterday, I became afraid they might knock my door anytime and threaten me,” a female Egyptian citizen living in Libya, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Daily News Egypt on the phone.
The woman, who has been living long-term in Libya with her children, said the security situation has worsened since 2011’s revolution. “We no longer stay out late, there are car thefts in the middle of the day, people stealing empty houses, and guns are everywhere, even in small fights,” she said.
Despite the deteriorating security situation in Libya, the woman said she prefers to stay rather than return to Egypt, saying: “I may not find another job when I come back, but if there is some personal risk to my life, I might consider leaving.”
Mina Thabet, who works for the Egyptian commission for rights and freedoms, has been coordinating on the issue between the commission and the families of the murdered Egyptians ever since they were abducted.
He said: “Ever since the labourers were abducted their families sent official letters to the foreign ministry, but all they did in response was to assure the families that their sons are still alive.”
Even when “IS” released their pictures on social media ahead of the execution video, the ministry did not take serious action or even release their official data about their ages, names or locations, according to Thabet.
Based on the commission’s previous visits to the labourers’ families, Thabet claimed the extreme poverty in their social and economic status is what urged them to leave, especially as some of them are family men.
Their families also claimed that they wanted to return three months earlier, but feared lack of security on the way back. In February 2014, seven Copts were killed on their way back to Egypt in the city of Benghazi.
RS, an Egyptian pharmacist, has been living in Libya for 25 years with her family, and managed to come back in 2010. She said entry and exit from Libya depended mainly on the political terms between Egypt and Libya, sometimes making it hard to reactivate the annual residency.
After 2008, she said they witnessed new Egyptian comers to Libya with official contracts in multinational companies, unlike the other hard labour jobs.