Jobless and desperate, Egyptians risk all in perilous Libya

Wed Jan 28, 2015 12:23pm EST
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By Mahmoud Mourad

AL-OUR, Egypt (Reuters) - Facing grim economic prospects at home, desperate young Egyptians are seeking jobs in Libya - a country sliding into lawlessness where armed groups battle for control and dozens of their compatriots have been kidnapped.

Tackling unemployment in Egypt - where half of the rapidly growing population is under 25 - is one of the toughest challenges facing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

He rules a country that has seen two presidents deposed in the past four years. The 2011 popular uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak was fueled by anger over joblessness.

Affording a home and getting married is still difficult under Sisi for many young men unable to make a living.

The political and social unrest since Mubarak was ousted has deterred foreign investors and tourists from Egypt, the world's most populous Arab nation with 90 million people. This has exacerbated the jobs crisis, and the unemployment rate has climbed from 8.9 percent to 13 percent in that time.

Thousands of Egyptians have traveled to neighboring Libya in search of jobs since 2011, despite their government advising against going to one of the most dangerous countries in the region.

They can be seen working in building sites, factories, restaurants and shops in cities across Libya, which has descended into chaos since a revolt toppled Muammar Gaddafi four years ago and where two rival governments vie for power.

In the Egyptian village of Al-Our, about 200 km (125 miles) south of Cairo, it is easy to see why young men take the risk.   Continued...

Aziza Younan, mother of Abanob Ayyad, one of 27 Egyptian Coptic Christian workers kidnapped in the Libyan city of Sirte, sits on a bed at the family's house in Al-Our village, in Minya governorate, south of Cairo, January 21, 2015.     REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih