CAIRO: Security forces embarked upon a widespread campaign to deport low-rank and construction workers from the Red Sea cities of Sharm El-Sheikh and Hurghada prior to the beginning of the World Economic Forum on the Middle East. The forum began Saturday and is being held until May 22, under the heading “The Promise of a New Generation.
The security campaign began on May 1 with the arrest of all suspicious workers who were then forced to leave the two cities.
We have organized an exceptional security set-up to ensure safety at the forum, using the latest technology and specialized squads, Minister of Interior Habib El-Adly told reporters.
The security campaign began a few days after the terrorist attacks on Dahab that killed 20 people and injured more than 84, most of them Egyptians. A similar attack occurred last year in Sharm El-Sheikh, leaving more than 60 dead. In October 2004, 34 people died in attacks on the resorts of Taba and Ras Shitan.
A source in Hurghada, who declined to be named, estimated the deported at 10,000 workers in Hurghada alone, adding that under ordinary procedures the police don t permit Egyptian workers to enter the city without permission from the police, requiring proof that the workers have specific work in the city. He also commented that the police used to carry out checks on licenses for construction workers, drivers, and some of the workers in the tourist shops and bazaars. He commented that even those who had licenses were not immune to suspicion.
A Sharm El-Sheikh businessman said that the police had made employers sign a commitment to give their workers a vacation during the period between May 15 to 30, and that the business owners had to agree that they would make sure that their workers leave the city.
Ehab, a worker in an antique shop in Sharm, said that he had been arrested and the police were about to deport him, although he then managed to call his employer who contacted the police to inform them to allow him to go free.
Ehab said that low-rank workers have disappeared from the city.
Hassan Saleh, a bazaar owner in Sharm El-Sheikh, said that the majority of workers who have been deported were low-rank workers.
Saleh states that police are working non-stop to deport workers, saying, “Police asked shops owner to give vacations to their additional workers; if a person has three workers, they ask him to give two of them a vacation, and the security also request reports on all workers.
He pointed out that the police have closed the entrances to Sharm El-Sheikh, checking all people who want to enter. Anyone without confirmed reservations or a work license is prevented from entering.
Holiday-makers confirm the driver s information. Tourists interviewed by Al Ahram Weekly say it is impossible to book hotel rooms during the conference week. It would have been far more convenient for me to come next week, said one French tourist who was looking forward to experiencing Sharm El-Sheikh s world famous diving sites. Not a single hotel could confirm a booking except in the week preceding or following the conference.
Saleh confirms, saying the number of tourists is far below average.
Foad Allam, deputy of state security, said these are normal arrangements to secure the city, commenting that if a person does not have a reason to stay, he should not be allowed to threaten security during such an important event.
Alam believes that the terrorist threat still exists. “This security arrangement amounts to issuing a licence for workers, he says.
Diaa Rashwan, an analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says, “This is the manner of the Ministry of Interior in Egypt. When important officials make a visit, they arrest people haphazardly, without reason, whether or not those people threaten security.
“The Interior Minister don’t make an effort on investigations; it is easier for them to deport people than work hard to learn if those people are dangerous or not. This violates human rights and insults Egyptians, he adds.