Sixteen foreign housekeepers have been deported after testing positive for the HIV-virus that causes AIDS.
According to Health Minister Ismail Wazir, the cases were discovered by a team of experts from the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Interior.
Wazir told the weekly Ros El Youssef magazine that Egyptian families who had employed the women as housekeepers have been required to undergo a test to see whether they had contracted the virus. He did not say what the results of the tests showed.
Wazir said his ministry has decided to ask all foreigners wishing to stay in Egypt for a long period of time to undergo medical examinations. He disclosed that in recent years the authorities discovered 460 HIV positive cases among foreign workers in Egypt.
"We deported all of them," he said. "Our main goal is to protect our society and Egyptian families."
Egyptian families employ thousands of Asian women as housekeepers. Most are brought to Egypt through special employment services that exist on a certain percentage deducted from the women's salaries.
The magazine said the women could earn up to EP 250 ($60) a month. The report noted that many of the housekeepers are "problematic" and often steal from their employers' homes.
Over the past few months, the authorities have been trying to limit the number of foreign women entering Egypt in search for work as housekeepers.
In some cases, according to the magazine, women have been denied entry at Cairo airport although they were carrying tourist visas issued by Egyptian embassies in their countries.
Despite the restrictions, several hundred women manage to enter the country illegally every year. The Minister of Health said the authorities would continue their campaign to reduce the number of foreign housekeepers.
"We will not hesitate to take all necessary measures to fight against this phenomenon," he stressed. "At the same time, we hope that these measures will not have a negative impact on tourism to Egypt."
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )