Egyptian Antiquities Minister Calls For US Importation Restrictions

Mohamed Ibrahim Ali, Egypt’s antiquities minister, is asking Barack Obama’s administration to impose restrictions on the importing of ancient artifacts from his country. He has stated that since the Arab Spring uprisings began in 2011, there has been significant looting and smuggling of Egyptian antiquities. The State Department has said that it is open to the request.

Ali has stated that the looting has ranged from villagers to organized syndicates that raid known historic and archaeological sites.These new restrictions would allow Customs and Immigration agents the right to seize Egyptian artifacts without proper documentation. Customs agents currently have no such authority to seize Egyptian artifacts without reasonable suspicion.

Members of the Antiques Coalition have supported the Egyptian minister’s claims, and have stated that stolen artifacts have been seen on United States auction house websites and in dealers’ catalogues. Online auctioneer eBay has removed several hundred auction items since 2011 in response to finding suspicious pieces on its site, and Christie’s halted several auctions in 2013 after the British Museum concluded that those works had been stolen.

George Washington University’s Capital Archaeological Institute is supporting the Egyptian government and its initiative by creating the International Coalition to Protect Egyptian Antiquities. That new entity hopes to persuade other countries to follow similar customs restrictions.

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