Greece ready to evacuate citizens from Egypt

Greece has placed airplanes on standby in order to evacuate any Greeks living in Egypt who want to flee the country, which is in the grip of anti-government protests, a government official said on Sunday.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras told Skai Radio that following a crisis meeting the government decided to put into action an evacuation plan for any Greeks wanting to leave Cairo and Alexandria, where most of them are based.

According to the Foreign Ministry’s website, about 4,000 Greeks live in Egypt. At its peak, Egypt’s Greek community numbered 140,000 people.

Delavekouras said that the evacuation flights would only be made if the conditions would allow. «Safety has to be a priority,» he said.

As of Sunday afternoon, there had been no reports of any Greeks being injured or killed in clashes that have reportedly left dozens of people dead during protests against President Hosni Mubarak.

«The panic is not being caused by the protestors who started the revolution,» the head of the Greek community in Cairo, Christos Kavalis, told Skai Radio. «There are some bad elements that have infiltrated the protests and there is no police to stop them. There is no state, there is nothing.»

The scenes in Cairo are being replicated in Alexandria, which has longstanding ties with Greece. «I don’t think the tension will die down easily,» said Yiannis Siokas, the head of the Greek community in the city. «The people want the government and the president to fall.»

Greeks in Egypt are being advised to stay in touch with the embassy, which has also asked the local police to protect Greek institutes from damage or looting.

Meanwhile, a few dozen Egyptians protested in front of their country’s embassy in Athens on Sunday.