Map of Greece,Major Fishing ports 

In this section we are pleased to present you with the results of our questionnaire assessment.

As a primary source of information regarding the status of the Egyptian fishermen in Greece, we have been based upon a questionnaire whose purpose is to assess information on the marital, economical, educational and work experience statuses of the workers. We are constantly "on tour" visiting the workers in various fishing ports of Greece, with the principals being in Kavala, Thessaloniki, Salamina(nearby Athens), Halkida(60 km from Athens), the island of Evia and other islands in the Aegean and Ionian sea (see map on the left where the major fishing ports of Greece are depicted).

The experiences and information we have collected through this engagement with the fishermen's  lives were invaluable. We were equipped with the appropriately targeted explanatory material, addressed to the Egyptian fishermen, the vessel owners/captains and the local authorities. Against to our primary hesitance, we have been welcomed and apparently been accepted without any major reserve against our motives and intentions.

This was in favour of our primary task, that of filling up a number of 400 questionnaires, acquiring a representative sample from as many as possible fishing areas of Greece. Informally we were given the opportunity to register their needs, hopes and opinions, something that gave us a closer look to the reality that they are facing everyday. We appreciated the fact that these people are working hard, really hard, even up to 15 hours per day, 6 days per week. For the western working standards this seems far-fetched and exaggerated. We appreciated their proximity to us, by simple gestures such as sharing a tea with us on board, or even been invited for tasting their fish specialties.


As a conclusion we can confirm due to their employers' views that they comprise a top-level workforce in their field, with some of them being engaged in fishing since their minor years (12 years or up),  engrafted with a practical experience, making them an exceptionally skilled workforce, probably the worthiest of the Mediterranean's fishing fleet.

We must have in mind that due to the nature of their work, they remain somewhat "hidden" from the local social life and that our visit possibly was perceived by them as very unpredicted but nonetheless as an occasion for escaping from their everyday routine. The feeling that somebody is also caring for them, was transferred to us by their friendly in every term behavior.

Filling up the questionnaires posed some difficulties, not only in communicating in Arabic but also in filling the questionnaires correctly in Arabic since some of the workers did not have an adequate level of literacy(mostly the oldest ones). Initially we used the services of learned Arabs working in Greece for this purpose. Progressively it had been proven more effective to hire the services of younger literate fishermen among the migrant workforce. In this way, we were both fast, efficient and secure. Fast by the means of having somebody who was trustful to our target groups. Efficient by the means that the hired Egyptians had detailed knowledge of the minor ports which harboured additional fishing vessels accompanied with the better understanding that they had among them. Secure by the means of not having to be involved with the captains of the ships while occupied with our task. It is true that our appearance was going to be possibly accepted as a threat, as recent events in Thessaloniki that had to do with a strike of the local Egyptian workforce, were disturbing to the employers. The Egyptians that helped us, proved to be "invisible" to the captains, so we did not have to face their distrust. With this tactic we avoided facing these issues. We also have to testify that some captains did provide us with information about the current state of fisheries in Greece, while most of them showed that they respect and highly approve the level of work that the Egyptian fishermen are undertaking.

A great number of questionnaires was filled in while visiting Damietta, the birthplace of most of the fishermen. Check out Izbet El Burg and the other villages of Damietta in the map that follows:

JavaScript must be enabled in order for you to use Google Maps.
However, it seems JavaScript is either disabled or not supported by your browser.
To view Google Maps, enable JavaScript by changing your browser options, and then try again.


We have completed our goal of 400 questionnaires. The descriptive statistics of the data that we collected is presented next.(You may download the questionnaire submitted to the Egyptian fisheries workers by clicking here)

These are the results produced by our analysis.


The overwhelming majority of the Egyptian fishermen originate from two neighboring governorates in the Northern part of Egypt , Damietta and Al Dakhaliya; with Damietta being the main departure place for most of the Egyptian fishermen. Within these two governorates the totality of fishermen resides in specific villages, Ezbet El Bourgh, Ras El Barr and Sheikh Dirgham in Damietta and Al Matariya in Al Dakhaliya. A 65% of the total number of Egyptian fishermen interviewed, come from a single village in the Nile Delta the village of Ezbet El Burgh in the Damietta governorate. Adding to the above value the percentage of fishermen originating from the neighboring village of Sheikh Dirgham, we come up with an 80% of our sample originating from a specifically concentrated area of Northern Damietta. The interviewed subjects that come from Al Dakhaliya governorate all reside in the village of Al Matariya, with no exceptions being registered up so far.


Particularly the village of Ezbet El Burgh has a strong tradition in fisheries and a rather large fleet of fishing vessels (mostly trawlers), with the fisheries sector comprising a significant portion of the local economy up to date. Finally, subjects in our study that originate from Al Matariya (Al Dakhaliya governorate) are all employed in fishery vessels registered to the one port authority, that of Volos in central Greece. In contrast, fishermen from Damietta are scattered literally all around the Greek region.

prefectureofresidencepie11             VillageOfResidence1

The average age of the subjects is 36 years. The age distribution is shown below. Most of the fishermen lie between 20 and 49 years of age. The majority of the fishermen (80%) is married and has an average of 2 children. They are members of large families each one of them having an average of 4 siblings. The majority of their brothers (9 out of 10) follows the same occupation, while of those that are engaged in fisheries, eight tenths are working currently in Greece. They predominantly descend from families with a long-lasting tradition in fisheries. Namely in approximately 90% of the cases analyzed, the subject's father is or was occupied within the fisheries sector.





The education system of Egypt consists of the primary level with 6 years of attendance, 3 years at the preparatory level, continuing with 3 extra years at the secondary level. The majority (42%) of the migrant fishermen have completed the level of primary education, while there is a significant portion of 22% that have not completed any level of education. For those remaining, a 13% has finished the preparatory level, another 18% has advanced to the secondary level while 5% are holders of a relevant degree in tertiary education. Those who have not completed the primary level, are dominant in the age groups above 50 and in some cases have participated for some years in the primary level but were not able to finish it. For those bellow their 30's it is a 35% that has finished secondary education and this percentage grows as age decreases. It seems that half of the present generation fishermen that now arrive in Greece have finished the secondary level, thus making up a highly literate and well-educated labor force.

The use of the Greek language is adequate for most of the Egyptians interviewed, as we can verify from the personal interaction with them. Those who have stayed for more than 5 years in Greece have an ease of use, especially apprehending the language but also speaking in a satisfactory way. This comprises a rather interesting fact, as the nature of the work in fisheries, the confined environment, the lack of sufficient integration with the Greek-speaking local community, all concur to limit the development of a moderate use of the Greek language. We should take notice that in some cases certain individuals have taken personal efforts to read and write Greek, while at the same time the length of stay for many of the migrants -reaching up to 25 years in some cases-, presents the challenge of bringing to these people the opportunity to develop reading skills in Greek through state or privately funded courses. There is the need for these migrants to interact more openly with the local communities and receive information on everyday events that affect their lives, a fact that can be realized through the ability to fully use the local language. As our analysis revealed, 3 out of 10 fishermen speak "good" Greek, 6 out of 10 speak "little" Greek while the remaining 1 out of 10 are not able to use the language. Approximately 1 out of 10 fishermen have some limited ability to read. The variable that greatly shapes these ratios is the number of years of stay and work in Greece, while there is less influence on their ability to use the language based on their educational level.

Literacy in the Arabic language is observed in a 65% of our sample and occurs predominantly within individuals that have completed at least the primary level of education. This value is slightly lower than the literacy rate of Egypt which is around 73% (various internet resources) for the male population. We should take into account that there could be a bias towards the higher levels of use in the answers due to psychological reasons (feelings of shame of a person not being able to read his own language). The literacy rate drops as age increases maintaining a level of 83% for the age range 20-24, a level of 69% for ages between 30 and 39, and decreasing to a 52% for the age range 45-54. We recorded also a poor level of use of the English language. A 40% is computer-literate, predominantly younger subjects, while very few of them are using a computer while in Greece.

LevelOfEdu1  SpeakGreek1 

ReadArab1  ComputerUse1 



The vast majority of the studied population has acquired most fisheries skills before migrating to Greece. It is observed and verified via personal interviews that people in these Egyptian fishing villages will start engaging in fishing activities as early as on their 15 years of age (or even younger in the previous decades), usually in the summer period. Some of them will quit school at this age to enter fully in the working environment, a trend that weakens year after year, thus allowing for younger individuals to complete the secondary education and even progress to the tertiary level.

The surveyed Egyptians migrate to Greece after their 20's, with 25 being the mean age of their first entry, having a prior work experience in open-sea fisheries. The modern technology that is used onboard Greek vessels requires that some additional knowledge should be gained about new machinery in order to be productive and efficient as a fishing vessel's crew. They adapt easily in the new linguistic environment on board as the instructions are comprised of single words or very short sentences that are easily memorized.

In our sample the vast majority of the fishermen (82%) are employed onboard purse seiners, a 13% is working on machine-trawlers while the remaining 5% are fishermen on small-scale trawlers. Currently there is approximately 320 purse seiners and 300 machine-trawlers with that number slightly reducing every year as a result of the EU's policies. On our survey we focused on fishermen employed on purse seiners as the nature of the work onboard those vessels allows for carrying out interviews on specific days and hours. Machine-trawlers rarely return to the shore and that return takes place not on a regularly planned basis. Purse seiners embark every evening and return early the following morning. Usually they rest on Saturdays and most of the interviews took place on that day during the fishing season.

It follows from the data that a large number of fishermen have acquired experience from working on both purse seiners and trawlers. A small portion of them have been employed in the aquaculture industry of Greece in the past. In a large number of cases, their families own some land in a brackish lake of the Nile Delta (north-eastern part of Lake Manzala) where they practice small scale aquaculture with no modern technological or scientific methods applied. This area serves as a source of inexpensive fish for human consumption for Egypt but suffers on the same time from increased pollution.

The crew number of the fishing vessels ranges from 5 persons (the captain included) on small purse seiners and trawlers and reaching up to 14 persons on the largest vessels with the mean value being 8 persons onboard. The majority (excluding the captain) are Egyptians, in a frequency of 8 out of 10. They work on an average of 12 hours per day, 6 days per week or alternatively 7 days per week with a leave in this case of 5 consecutive days around the full-moon date.

All subjects enjoy social insurance and are registered in the social security system of the Organization of Agricultural Social Security (OGA). No cases were encountered being registered in a worker's union, while there exists no official association of Egyptian fishermen in Greece.

Half of the Egyptian fishermen have a previous work experience in aquacultures, either in the form of traditional fish-farming in Egypt or in the modern Greek aquaculture industry.

It follows from our data analysis that their mean salary is around 900 Euros while most workers have a salary of approximately 750 Euros, an amount that is guaranteed by the legislation as the unskilled workers minimum wage. Under the present legal framework the employers are obliged to provide the workers with housing and the necessary means of sustenance. They abide these requirements by providing the vessel's cabinets for sheltering purposes and an amount from everyday's catches for dietary needs. In some cases the employer-captain provides his Egyptian crew with fish for trading purposes in the local (unofficial) market allowing the improvement of income for the migrant workers. In general the salary levels have been decreasing since Greece has joined the euro area in 2001. In reality there are a number of cases who recently have faced a decline to their salary down to even 300 Euros. Those where the cases of workers that have been employed with an agreement to be remunerated by their employers on a share-of-total-income basis. This event was the underlying cause of a major strike of the fishermen in the port of Nea Mihaniona (nearby Thessaloniki), an unprecedented political behavior for migrant workers in Greece which led to major clashes between a portion of the local Greek vessel-owners and the migrant workers.

Furthermore, our analysis reveals that an overwhelming majority of 95% are positive on the idea to work in the aquaculture industry in the future, presenting as main incentives the stability of time schedule, the safety conditions in the working environment, the stability in remuneration and the attractiveness of being engaged in a modern and challenging activity such as the aquacultures. The same percentage would prefer to work in the aquacultures as an alternative to fisheries upon returning permanently to Egypt.

Statistical analysis of the DB data
















95% are from Dumiat . From those 80% are from Izbet El Burg, 13% from Sheikh Dirgham and the remaining 7% from other villages (Ras El Barr, Kafr El Seikh)





Education in Egypt consists of three levels. The primary school for 6 years and preparatory school for three years. Then the secondary school is for three years from the age of 15 to 17, then followed by the tertiary level.


27% have not finished the primary level

73% have finished the primary level

34% have finished the preparatory school

21% have finished the secondary school

10% have continued to tertiary level


Language use


Language Use/Level




Reads Arab




Writes Arab




Speaks Greek




Reads Greek




Writes Greek




Speaks English





Computer use:

39% Yes

61%  No












Last Updated (Tuesday, 11 December 2012 19:17)