Report: Egypt Hosts 23,000 Sudanese Immigrants, among Others
There are about 20,000 Sudanese refugees living in Cairo, and about 3000 in Alexandria, who are seeking refuge from the political unrest and the compulsory military service in their homeland, according to a report by Egypt Today.
The monthly said that the original wave of southern Sudanese émigrés who came to Egypt in the 1980s comprised university students who planned to return to Sudan upon graduation. But as political conditions deteriorated in their native land, many never went back.
With armed conflict raging in the south, returning to Sudan has usually meant conscription in the army, said the monthly.
It added that Christian south Sudanese and other refugees are getting help by churches like the All Saints Cathedral and St. Andrew's United Church Downtown. They offer children's educational classes, medical care and a food program.
The numbers seeking a haven in Cairo continue to grow. "Five years ago there were 8,000 or 10,000 southern Sudanese here," Mark Bennett, a coordinator told the magazine.
"Now there are more than 20,000. There may be another 3,000 or 4,000 in Alexandria." Southern Sudanese make up the largest section of Egypt's refugee population, although Somalis, Sierra Leonians, Eritreans, Ethiopians, Libyans, Liberians, Yemenis and Bosnians as well as Palestinians have also found refuge in Egypt.
But, the monthly said, many of these refugees hope their stay will be temporary. "Egypt has become a country of transit, where getting refugee status means getting resettled in a Western country," explained Barbara E. Harrell-Bond, adjunct professor of forced migration and refugee studies at the American University in Cairo. If accepted by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), they gain the opportunity to resettle in the United States, Canada or Australia. But as Bennett points out, "Probably only 30 percent of them will find that opportunity."
According to reports, there maybe good news after all. The Sudanese government announced two days ago that that an Afro-Arab summit on peace in Sudan is scheduled to be convened in mid-August in Tripoli, while a national dialogue forum will start in early September.
The summit would look at ways to implement a joint Egyptian-Libyan peace initiative aimed at bringing the Khartoum government together with opposition factions to discuss ways of ending the war and forming a transitional government.
The peace plan, which has also been accepted by the opposition, includes calls for a pluralist democracy and a national conference for revision of the Constitution of 1998.
The opposition groups have demanded that any peace process should also focus on the principle of self-determination for the south and the separation of religion and government -- Albawaba.com
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)