“They treat us like a sack of money”: The shadowy network that charges thousands of dollars to Gazans fleeing to Egypt

“They treat us like a sack of money”: The shadowy network that charges thousands of dollars to Gazans fleeing to Egypt

Desperate situation in the Gaza Strip has led many Palestinians to look for ways to escape. However, getting out of Gaza is not as simple as it seems. A group of middlemen has set up a shadowy network that charges thousands of dollars to Gazans wishing to leave the Strip and cross the border into Egypt.

A lucrative business at the expense of the most vulnerable

Desperation and lack of options have led many Palestinians to turn to this network of middlemen to obtain an entry permit to Egypt. According to testimonies collected, brokers charge between $4,500 and $11,000 per person, depending on the circumstances. To pay for this process, many Gazans embark on online crowdfunding campaigns.

An opaque and corrupt system

Although the exact details of the process and how the middlemen get people across the border are unclear, various investigations have revealed that there is a network of bribes to get the go-ahead from the Egyptian authorities who control the Rafah border crossing.

The chairman of Egypt’s State Intelligence Service has denied the allegations of illegal fees, calling them false. However, testimonies collected indicate that some Egyptian authorities ask for money from Palestinians wishing to cross the border, extorting them in the process.

Prominent middleman and his relationship with the Egyptian government

Among the most prominent middlemen is an Egyptian travel agency called Hala. This agency, owned by Ibrahim al Ergany, a businessman close to the upper echelons of the Egyptian state, has collaborated with the army and security forces in their fight against terrorism in North Sinai. It has also benefited from plans to rebuild Gaza after Israel’s 2021 offensive.

Situation of Gazans seeking to leave the Strip

For many Gazans, leaving the Strip has become a matter of survival. Despite the high costs and associated risks, some have decided to use their savings to try to help their families from outside. Others are forced to resort to loans or crowdfunding campaigns to cover expenses.

Once they manage to cross the Rafah border crossing, Gazans face generally grim treatment by the Egyptian authorities. Although the departure process can be grueling and fraught with obstacles, many consider anything better than staying in the Strip with no future prospects.

Responsibility of the Israeli and Egyptian authorities

While the Israeli authorities bear a great deal of responsibility for the plight of Palestinians in Gaza, the Egyptian authorities also play an important role in controlling the Rafah border. Human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch have documented cases of extortion by the Egyptian authorities, which further aggravates the vulnerable situation of Gazans.

Conclusions

The desperate situation in the Gaza Strip has led many Palestinians to seek a way out through the Egyptian border. However, this option is fraught with obstacles and high costs. The existence of a shadowy network of middlemen who charge Gazans thousands of dollars only exacerbates their situation of vulnerability and desperation.

Steps must be taken by the Israeli and Egyptian authorities to ensure the right of Palestinians to free movement and to seek a better life outside the Gaza Strip. In addition, the corrupt and extortive practices of middlemen who take advantage of the desperation of people in search of a way out must be investigated and stopped.