South East Asian countries begin evacuating students from Egypt

South East Asian countries with large numbers of students in Egypt started evacuating their citizens from Egypt last week as the situation in Cairo and other cities began to worsen. Concerned officials had been assessing the situation for the past two weeks.

Rising violence across Egypt has reportedly left some 1,000 people dead.

Malaysia – with the largest number of students in Egypt – Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines all initiated plans to repatriate nationals this week. It is the second time in two years that Asian students have been evacuated hurriedly from the troubled Middle Eastern country.


On Tuesday Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak ordered the evacuation of 3,300 Malaysian students via Amman, Jordan and Istanbul.

The order came after a recommendation from the country’s National Security Council, which sent a representative to Cairo as well as other affected cities in Egypt including Alexandria, Tanta and Mansourah.

The council reported that the situation was “in a state of uncertainty” and could worsen. Razak said bringing the students home could not be delayed any longer.

The first batch of students arrived in Kuala Lumpur on 22 August, with three evacuation flights scheduled for 23 August. A number of Malaysian students were also evacuated from Alexandria but most were from Cairo.

Al-Azhar University third-year medical student Nurul Afifah Rosman (21) told local media on arrival on Thursday that she was sad about leaving Egypt. “My parents are worried about me. Things are unpredictable here. Some days the locals will protest and sometimes there are no protests,” she said.

Some 11,145 Malaysians were studying in Egypt but around 7,850 had returned for the semester break, according to an official of the Education Ministry.

Last Monday Muhyuddin Yassin, deputy prime minister and education minister, said Malaysian students registered at Egyptian universities for the upcoming semester that begins in September would not be allowed to travel to Egypt due to political and security instability.

He said in a press statement that the Malaysian ministry had coordinated with Egypt’s Ministry of Higher Education to postpone enrolment for one semester. This meant there would be no new intake of Malaysian students in Egypt in September. However, during the Arab Spring uprising of 2011, universities in Cairo were closed for up to a year.

Some students who were due to sit for repeat exams in Egypt in August have had their exams postponed to a later date, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education, which has informed foreign embassies.

The ministry indicated in its communications with foreign embassies that it would “take action” against any Egyptian university that did not comply with the directive to postpone exams.

Students studying medicine in Egypt were in the middle of their clinical trials and could not return immediately. Measures were being taken to ensure their safety, Malaysian officials said.


Last Tuesday, just hours after Indonesian foreign ministry officials said the government considered evacuation to be unnecessary, the government announced it would repatriate Indonesians from Egypt.

Some 5,000 Indonesians live in Egypt and 2,600 of them are students.

“The government has been carrying out preparation measures for the repatriation processes. The Indonesian embassy in Egypt has been ordered to collect and assess data on Indonesians in the country to create priority-based evacuation batches,” Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Djoko Suyanto said in a statement.


Philippines President Benigno Aquino announced last Wednesday that an initial US$240,000 would be earmarked for the mandatory repatriation of 6,000 citizens in Egypt, most of them students and some domestic workers, after the government raised alertness to its highest Crisis Level 4.

Level 4 entails mandatory repatriation at the Philippines government’s expense. A rapid response team arrived in Cairo on 17 August to assist in implementing the repatriation programme, local media in the Philippines reported.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario visited Cairo this week for the second time in two weeks to assess the security situation for nationals.


Thailand’s Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said the prime minister had ordered Thai citizens to be evacuated after Thailand upgraded its alert level to 4 last weekend. The first group of Thais left Egypt last Sunday bound for Bangkok via Dubai.

According to the ministry some 2,000 Thai citizens live in Egypt, 1,820 of them students and many of them studying on scholarships. Egypt is a popular study destination for Thai Muslims from the southern part of the country.

Some 600 Thais had left Egypt by Thursday. But as the situation worsened, Thai officials said it was also important to ensure that students and other Thai citizens were able to travel to the airport safely.

The Thai student association in Cairo said that by last Tuesday up to 406 more of its members had registered their intention to fly back to Thailand and 332 would leave Cairo on Thursday, with others following as soon as possible.

The student association announced its own temporary closure in Egypt from Friday.

Thailand’s Deputy Education Minister Sermsak Pongpanich said this week if any of the evacuated Thai students wished to continue their education in Thailand, the ministry would facilitate the transfer of credits to Thai universities and assist in the search for alternative institutions so that students could “seamlessly integrate” into new courses.

Students were too frightened to go outside for fear of their safety, evacuee Nattapol Deecharoen told the Bangkok Post on his arrival home. Natttapol was studying at pre-college level in Egypt before enrolling in university later this year.

“I have no choice but to put my studies on hold. But I will go back there,” he said.


Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that although most of its 250 students in Egypt had returned during the past weeks as Egyptian institutions closed for the summer vacation, it had facilitated the departure of remaining students – two dozen returned to Singapore on Tuesday. Another three batches of students would be evacuated during the week.

Earlier the Singapore embassy in Cairo helped to temporarily relocate students away from Raa’a Al-Adawiya, where a major sit-in was held.

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore said it was in close contact with remaining students in Egypt, who were waiting for final-year results or attending summer courses, and would assist those with financial difficulties to return to Singapore.

It also said it has in place contingency plans, including alternative arrangements, for students due to enrol in Al-Azhar University in Cairo in the coming semester.