A group of Egyptians who are being held in the Libyan capital Tripoli are set to be released soon, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said in a Friday statement.
Libya’s permanent representative to the Arab League Ashour Bourashed said 46 Egyptians were administratively held by the Libyan Interior Ministry to determine whether they entered the country legally, and those who are found to have entered illegally will be deported, state-run MENA reported. He added that they will not be harmed. His statement came after news reports emerged suggesting that 70 Egyptians were kidnapped; however, this was denied by Bourashed.
Libyan authorities informed Egyptian authorities that the purpose was to ensure the validity of the Egyptians’ paperwork given the current security conditions in Libya. Fahmy said “this is part of a campaign” to ensure the authenticity of the paperwork of people residing in Libya and does not “target specific nationalities”.
The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs had earlier said in a statement that it was closely following up on preliminary information indicating that groups in military attire arrested 70 Egyptians and that Fahmy is making extensive contact with Libyan counterpart Mohamed Abdel-Aziz to ensure their speedy release.
Egypt’s Foreign Ministry renewed its travel warning to Egyptians inside or travelling to Libya to be cautious and travel only out of necessity. On 1 March, Egypt’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a travel warning to citizens visiting or residing in Libya in light of the security situation in the neighbouring country.
The warning came after repeated incidents in which Egyptians in Libya were targeted. A group of masked militants abducted eight Egyptians on 23 February, taking them to a suburb west of Benghazi. One escaped, but seven were shot dead. They were Coptic Christians, who are believed to have been targeted because of their religion.
In January, six Egyptian embassy workers were kidnapped in Libya by an unknown group last Friday and Saturday. The workers were released after Egyptian authorities released a Libyan rebel leader, but Egypt has denied reports of a prisoner swap. Within days of their release, Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan arrived in Cairo for talks with top officials.
Dozens of Egyptian drivers were abducted in October near the Libyan town of Ajdabiya, and were later released following a joint effort by the two neighbours.
Egypt and Libya signed an agreement for military cooperation in April 2013. The agreement tackled border security, which involves the two countries sharing expertise regarding border control and fighting illegal immigration and fishing operations.
Egyptians, however, continued to illegally cross into Libya despite warnings from both governments advising them to obtain the correct documentation before travelling.
In October, two Egyptians died of thirst after 72 entered Libya illegally in two separate groups.
Egyptian fishermen are frequently found fishing illegally in territorial waters, including Libya’s. Fifteen Egyptian fishermen were released from Libyan custody and deported in January after being held for violating Libya’s waters.