Aiming to increase the financial income of the government, Egypt’s Parliament recently approved a draft law that stipulates increasing the fee to obtain an Egyptian nationality from LE 50 to LE 10,000.
This unprecedented increase has spurred controversy among social media users, who criticized the move harshly. The draft law was also met with outrage from non-Egyptians who have been living in Egypt for years, such as those from unstable countries such as Syria and Yemen, and were hoping to one day obtain the full citizenship.
This immense 10,000 EGP increase presents a heavy new obstacle for them, on top of the difficulties already present in obtaining the nationality like the long process involved in checking for applications.
“I was born in Yemen and at the age of five I moved with my family to Egypt. My father was preparing his PHD in Arabic language and I’ve been living here for nearly 20 years,” says 25-year-old Yemeni IT student Abdel Rahman.
Rahman, currently living in Cairo, told Egypt Independent that he considers Egypt as his first country, and that he is a ‘pure’ Egyptian who should be treated as a full citizen.
“I sought over the past five years to obtain Egyptian nationality, however I met numerous obstacles such as the deliberate intransigence from government employees responsible for finishing the procedures for getting the Egyptian nationality… increasing the fees to LE 10,000 has convinced me to give up any attempt to get it” he explained.
Regarding why he wanted the nationality in the first place, Rahman explained that having been through all Egyptian education stages except university, Rahman was faced with a high annual fee equivalent to 6,000 sterling pounds, while Egyptians citizens only have to pay LE 200.
He added that the nationality would allow him to enjoy other privileges as well, such as state subsidies on bread and other necessary food items.
“I faced racism as well, such as when I wished to enter tourist areas; officials there treated me differently than Egyptians, especially in entry fees as I was asked to pay more,” Rahman lamented.
An anonymous 40-year old-Syrian man told Egypt Independent that this fee rise will only decrease the numbers of people willing to obtain the Egyptian citizenship.
He further explained that was a resident living in Banha city in the Qalubyia governorate making a living by selling food, obtaining the nationality was seen as a necessity.
“I’m currently working hard to get the Egyptian nationality as it will help me live as an ordinary citizen, and I need to get my kids into Egyptian schools and then universities,” he explained.
Despite the high fees, the Syrian man stated he was still willing to pay them, as there was no way he could go back to Syria.
Another attitude to the fee comes from a 29-year-old Palestinian woman, Hanaa Talal, who was born in Egypt and lived there for her entire life. She told Egypt Independent that since her father arrived in the country in 1982, he never considered obtaining citizenship and she shares his view.
“Increasing application fees from LE 50 to LE 10,000 will lead to a weak turnout from non-Egyptians willing to obtain citizenship, and the recent unprecedented hikes in prices will push Egyptians to immigrate” she explained.
Talal added that if she considered applying for the Egyptian citizenship, it would only be to facilitate transactions with a state-run facility.
Deputy of the National Defense and Security Committee at Egypt’s Parliament, Yahia Kedwani told Egypt Independent that the fee raise is not intended to limit the number of people who are seeking it or to decrease the number of the Syrian refugees entering Egypt as has been rumored.
“Raising the fees from LE 50 to LE 10,000 is meant to increase the financial resources of the country and not impose restrictions on those who are aiming to obtain citizenship,” he explained.
He added that obtaining the Egyptian nationality isn’t just restricted by the new fee, as there are still other stages and measures that must be completed before paying the LE 10,000.
According to an October 2017 report released by UNHCR Egypt, 126,000 registered Syrians reside in Egypt, mainly concentrated in Cairo, 6 October City, Giza, Alexandria, and Qalyubia.
However, the large number of Syrians in the country imposes no burden. A recent report from the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) titled ‘Jobs Make the Difference’ revealed that Syrian refugees have invested nearly $800 million into Egypt since the beginning of the Syrian crisis.
The money invested will increase, according to UNDP, if host countries and regions apply the recommendations of the report.