Egypt is an origin, transit and destination country for migrants. It is considered as an increasingly important gateway to Europe for migrants originating from African and Arab countries. Egypt is currently experiencing what has been called the permanence of temporary migration, whereby migration towards Arab countries is becoming less temporary and outnumbers long-term migration to Europe and North America.
In addition to some 70,000 Palestinian refugees whose families arrived in the wake of the 1948 war, tens of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers from Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, as well as Iraq, are now stranded in Egypt due to their inability to return to their homelands. During the 2011 Libyan civil war, large numbers of migrants fleeing Libya reached Egypt, the majority were Egyptian who returned. Recently, a rise in migration to Europe – mostly irregular – especially Italy and France, has been recorded.
In 2015, Egypt hosted 491,643 migrants. According to UNHCR data, 202,209 asylum seekers and refugees of all nationalities are registered in Egypt as of February 2017. Many of these migrants reside in Egypt for years until they find an opportunity to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, either through regular or irregular channels. Recent research suggests that most of the refugees from the Horn of Africa do not set out migration to Europe as their initial goal, and that crossing the Mediterranean comes only as a final option. Other research suggests that forced migrants choose Egypt in order to seek asylum and to have good living conditions; however, the majority of them intend to move onward to other countries.
In addition to the influx of migrants, there is also an increase in the numbers of Egyptians leaving the country, the majority of which head to Europe, especially Italy. Most of these migrants are single males originating from different governorates. The majority of returning Egyptians are also single males, within the age range of 31-50, most of which are returning from Greece or Netherlands. This trend has also been witnessing an increase since the economic crisis.