Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has scolded European embassies in Cairo over their treatment of nationals applying for visas and advised Egyptians to avoid travelling to countries whose missions dealt with them in an "offensive" manner. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs... has sent a statement to European embassies and consulates in Cairo which criticised their visa procedure with Egyptian citizens," the statement read.
Without singling out individual countries, the ministry said it was "encouraging Egyptians to avoid travel to those countries as much as possible, as long as suitable alternatives exist". "It is hard to imagine that Egyptians would spend money in countries where they are subject to abuse from the moment they present an application for a visa," read the statement, released last week. "Evasion, incompetence and ambiguity in letting applicants know what paperwork is required all lead to the delay of the visas. In many cases this has caused financial losses to numerous Egyptians."
The statement urged European missions to be as hospitable as the Egyptians were to Europeans travelling to Egypt. Egypt allows most Europeans to obtain a visa on arrival, but Egyptians who want to visit Europe must obtain a visa before departure. The process is lengthy and cumbersome, applicants have claimed. Security is usually the reason cited for Europe's stringent entry requirements, which some Egyptian officials concede is a legitimate concern.
"Lets face it, the risks are very high when issuing a tourist visa," said a senior adviser at the Egyptian European Council, who asked not to be named. As a result, Egyptian visitors to Europe, including Britain, encounter lengthy delays in obtaining visas. "I wanted to visit London, so I gave all the paperwork required for the visa process and filled in all the information needed on the application form, and was told it would take two days to process," said Sherif Kabi, an Egyptian engineer who applied for a visa at the British embassy in Abu Dhabi. "It's been two weeks now and there's no sign of the visa, and quite honestly I lost hope."
However, European embassies have suggested that the rigorous application process has as much to do with weeding out economic migrants who frequently overstay their visas and illegally seek employment. "Most people think that the matter is related with security, but from my experience here, I think that those seeking employment on a tourist visa is the real issue," said a spokesman from the British embassy in Cairo.
"In most cases, people fail to bring all the documents required, or say they are travelling for medical treatment when they really have other intentions - that's why the process sometimes takes weeks." The British embassy has taken steps to speed up the application process. It hired a private company this year to take charge of the data collection from applicants. "By having the extra help and someone to organise the data for us, the decision to grant visas becomes faster," said the spokesman.