Ottawa offers flights as Canadians urged to leave Egypt

Thousands of travelers wait at the terminal at Cairo International Airport. There were many airplanes ready to fly out of the airport, but few crews could be assembled to fly them, leading to massive delays. (Scott Nelson, New York Times)

From my story in tomorrow’s Vancouver Sun:


When the federal government begins flying Canadians out of Egypt on Monday, Hassan El-Shaikh and his family will be among those anxious to board.

The Surrey resident, his wife Mona and their five-year-old son, Karim, went to Egypt two weeks ago for a long-anticipated visit with family. They were supposed to return to B.C. on Saturday, but the mass demonstrations and political unrest since Jan. 25 have disrupted air travel, leaving them stranded — at separate homes, no less — in Alexandria.

El-Shaikh’s brother-in-law, Ahmad Badawi, said the family is particularly concerned about escaped criminals, with numerous jailbreaks having been reported at a nearby facility in Alexandria.

“It is not safe,” said Badawi, an Egyptian-Canadian who now lives in Burnaby. “The criminals escaped and are shooting firearms.”

Mona and Karim are stuck at a different family member’s home than Hassan, as they find it is too dangerous to travel even within the city to be together, Badawi said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon announced details of the charter flights Sunday evening in Ottawa, on the heels of similar action taken earlier in the day by the U.S. and other countries. Cannon said the government will start flying Canadians out of Egypt as early as Monday — a move that comes amid criticism over the government’s efforts to help stranded Canadians.

“We don’t want to put Canadians in a precarious situation,” Cannon said. “Rather than bettering itself, the situation seems to be deteriorating from the reports that we are receiving. And, therefore, our primary concern, of course, is the safety and security of Canadians.”

Continue reading here.

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