Three fishing boats and 20 fishermen, detained in Sudan since April, arrived in Suez on Monday, reported the state-owned MENA news website. The remaining 81 arrived via airplane the same day. The men are all from a village in the northern governorate of Daqahlia.
The announcement follows a period of intense negotiations between the Egyptian and Sudanese governments. The men were allowed to return home after a decree was made by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Following their release, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi freed 44 Sudanese citizens who had been detained for crossing the border illegally.
The 101 fishermen were arrested on April 7 when it was alleged that they had trespassed into Sudanese waters. An elderly man and six minors were arrested along with them, but they were quickly released. Shortly after, the Sudanese government announced they would release the other 101 men, before quickly backtracking and sentencing them to a month in prison.
Speaking with Mada Masr recently, the Head of the Fishermen Syndicate Aboul Hassan said he believed their arrest to be “politicized.” He claimed that the men had no intention of fishing in Sudanese waters and were passing through on their way to Eritrea.
After they were arrested, their families launched a high-profile campaign to put pressure on the Foreign Ministry to take action. This led to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry, meeting with over 100 family members in July and assuring them he was “dedicated” to securing their release.
Egyptian fishermen are required to obtain an official permit before fishing in territorial waters. However, these permits are often difficult to acquire, and fishermen are frequently sold fake documents by brokers, increasing their vulnerability to prosecution.