Wednesday, October 11, 2017

What's behind Cairo's call to unify expatriate groups?

Amr Mostafa, Al-Monitor

Image from article, with caption: Egyptian expatriates living in Lebanon shout slogans in support of Egypt's presidential candidate and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, as they hold an Egyptian flag along with pictures of Sisi in front of the Egyptian embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, May 15, 2014.


CAIRO — Public diplomacy was the political regime’s weapon in 2014-2016 when Egyptians rallied abroad to assert the popularity of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he visited New YorkBerlin and Paris, among other European capitals. At the time, the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to show the international community that Sisi’s regime acceded to power in the wake of an illegitimate military coup by spreading rumors about the current regime and rallying against Sisi. Today, Egypt is seemingly capitalizing on promoting public diplomacy through a draft law to unite organizations regulating the affairs of Egyptian expatriates. Minister of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs Nabila Makram proposed the draft law in September.
On Sept. 25, Makram met with Minister of Justice Hussam Abdul Rahim to discuss issuing a law that would regulate and unite Egyptian organizations abroad. Makram lauded the role of Egyptian expatriates and voiced her strong faith in public diplomacy, which she said goes hand in hand with official diplomacy. She also praised the efforts of associations and entities representing Egyptian expatriates to support the state, organize it and focus on the national objectives.
Makram said she would communicate with members of parliament representing Egyptians abroad to get their perspective on organizing the bodies representing expatriates. She underlined the need to benefit from international models regulating the affairs of expats — such as the Moroccan, Sudanese, Mexican and Lebanese models — before submitting to parliament the proposal of the Ministry of Immigration and Expatriate Affairs.
On Sept. 20, Makram said in a press statement, “There are many bodies representing Egyptian expatriates such as the Egyptian clubs abroad, the General Syndicate for Egyptians Working Abroad, the diaspora and the official spokesperson for the Egyptian diaspora. The multitude of expatriate bodies prompted the ministry to call on them to unite to serve the state. The ministry is preparing a draft law to submit to the Cabinet and parliament to organize these bodies.” ... 
Parliamentarian Evelyn Matta, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, told Al-Monitor, “Uniting Egyptians under one body would give this body more power due to the number of its members and their diversified jobs. Consequently this body would have more power to pressure some companies and foreign organizations that do not honor the rights of Egyptian workers and to defend the rights of Egyptians if an Egyptian was abused or rights were violated.”
Matta added, “A unified Egyptian body would increase Egyptian calls to foreigners to attract their investments to Egypt and would widen partnership opportunities between Egyptians abroad and cement their investments. Such a body would also help discover Egyptian expertise that can manage investments. As a result, Egyptian investments abroad would multiply, increasing Egyptian influence and giving Egypt its first lobby.” ... 
The Egyptian lobby idea, as described by Matta, is facing several obstacles. For one, its implementation is not straightforward because some associations representing Egyptians abroad are at odds with Makram. Besides, laws change from one country to another where the associations are based, and some people are concerned that a united body might be a trap for the opponents of the regime to track them down and detect their activities. It is undeniable, however, that the draft law has diplomatic and investment privileges, in addition to its contribution to defending Egyptians’ rights.

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