refugees

This tag is associated with 5 posts

Refugee Emergency Relief Efforts. Call for Donations!

Anti-government demonstrators in Cairo. UNHCR is finding ways to help refugees during the political uncertainty. (c)Reuters

Refugees in Cairo have become increasingly vulnerable because of the recent unrest in Cairo, many if not most of the NGOs or agencies usually serving them are closed or working on a limited-staff basis. 

Staff from St. Andrew’s and other organisations have been in contact with Tadamon organisation which is currently running food distribution around the city for the most extreme and vulnerable cases. Everything is welcome, rice, pasta, vegetables, canned food, fruits, milk, clothes, blankets, everything. If you’re not in Cairo but still have stuff here to handover, contact us and we will arrange for it. 

Depending on the security situation we plan to be at St. Andrew’s Sunday from 10am to 1pm if you want come and drop some stuff, or if you prefer we can come to your place during the afternoon. Anything, even if it’s 1 kg of rice, contact Maelle by email, maelle.pelletier@gmail.com, or by phone, 0166077047. Thanks! 

Toward the same end we will accept financial contributions. These will go toward emergency food provisions and to help prevent evictions by providing temporary rent assistance to especially at risk refugees. We have several channels through which we can receive donations, depending on location. Contributions from the U.S. and Europe are welcome and will be received via transfer to local bank accounts in those countries. If you are interested in helping in any way please contact me, meli.holmes@gmail.com, for more details.

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Breaking Silence in Egypt: A West African Perspective – By Mouctar Diallo

The following article was written by my neighbor in Cairo. Please feel free to forward it to anyone you feel would be interested. He is documenting and writing about the situation facing the refugee community now and the work that we, the few foreigners from the NGO community continuing to function here in Egypt, are doing. 
Breaking Silence in Egypt: A West African Perspective
By Mouctar Diallo.
Written on Thursday February 3rd 2011, at 05:15 am.
It is four in the morning. I reside about two blocks from Tahrir square. I cannot sleep with the sporadic gunshots ringing around me. I have Al Jazeera on and surfing the Internet to have some sense of freedom. I have a lot of activist and blogger friends experiencing a siege as I write. People I have  known for the last four years. All of them, part of the amazing organic community who is putting pressure on the Egyptian government.
The fall of the Berlin Wall is a great comparison in terms of the potential magnitude of the ramifications of the current events on the region. The difference: the reunification of Europe was simple, predictable in terms of the direction the old continent took.
In the Middle East, things are extremely more complex.
The future seems obscure. Egypt, the center of Arab and Islamic culture a few decades ago, with its population representing a quarter of the Arab demography, is going to set the tone for the region. At the moment that leading role is pointing at more chaos, more radicalization and more violence to come.
Here, there is no leading figure capable of effectively maintaining the socio-political fabric. Political fragmentation is occurring at an incredible speed. This is especially true with the government strategy to create a “pro-Mubarak” movement to give the police forces the capacity to continue their repressive work with the assistance of thugs recruited in the slums around Cairo, a city of 18 million people. Consequently, gangs and vigilantes are controlling the streets; some to practice all kind of pillage, others to protect their properties. Thus far, they are using knifes, wood, steel, chains and many other types of medieval weapons.
What will happen when the use of the barrels of firearms expands beyond the security forces and the army as Al Jazeera is currently showing? There are too many unknowns for now and probably still after the uprising becomes successful. For, undoubtedly, it will be successful.
The Black Africans, in this disorder of things, are the silenced community. Of the four years I have spent in Egypt, racism has been a constant companion, at all levels of the Egyptian social structure. This constancy of racial prejudice during times of peace cannot be imaginable during the current period of violence and suspicion. This is not to say that the racist behavior has to be generalized to all Egyptians, but the facts are the facts. See for yourself.
There is a considerable sub-Saharan African community in Cairo: refugees, students, migrant workers, international bureaucrats and government or political officials and their families. I spent about half of yesterday at the airport. I saw those with the financial means attempting to leave the country.
 But there are other members of this robust community. Cairo is home to a significant refugee community from various countries. The bulk of them are from sub-Saharan Africa mainly Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea. Their whereabouts and welfare should be of public concern in these difficult moments. Their injuries and deaths (if any) should not be devaluated when considering the growing number of victims of the Egyptian State’s repression. Racism is as virulent in the Middle East as in the U.S. in the 1960s.
I was told, by a friend working at AMIRA, an organization involved in the relocation process of the refugees, that some Sudanese and Eritreans have been arrested and chased from their apartments. She also mentioned how it has been more difficult for them to feed themselves since the protests started. With some friends, she was working on getting some groceries to some Somali refugees.  Prior to his departure for Turkey, another acquaintance and employee of the American University in Cairo, shared with me how he had to financially assist the Sudanese refugees he had befriended. Unable to work, deprived of any assistance in this time of chaos, their survival capacities have been substantively undermined. Abdul Kader, one of the leaders of the Somali refugee community in Cairo told me that their vulnerable financial situation has now been aggravated by pressures put on them by landlords, who themselves are strapped in an economy that has come to a halt. Even still, the landlords are pressuring the refugees to vacate their living quarters.
It does not stop there. Two Somali refugee women have been sexually abused in their home at El Ashra two days ago in the heat of the uprising. The Somali community leader, Ali Dahiradin, received the report this afternoon. The women have been beaten and sexually abused by a gang of young and armed Egyptians. Dahiradin was vexed, relaying to me that the women are complaining that there is no justice and that they cannot go to the police.
Even as I have ventured out, dedicated to my passion of documenting society, to capture these ongoing events, I have to deal with some remarks from some of the protesters. At the moment, it will not be fair and ethical for me to further comment on the faith of the sub-Saharan Africans, not knowing all the details. So far, I know that many are exiting the country and I am now thinking about it myself.
As everyone, I hope things will get better. But the reality is actually worse than what is shown on TV. Once again, the Media is exposing its weaknesses to manipulations through different political agendas defending different political and economic interests. Many have been hurt; many are unaccounted for; people are being killed. My utmost consideration and respect to the Egyptian people braving the state and its rigid structures of oppression and exploitation.
Egypt and the region will never be the same. The multitude are already on the move in Algeria, Jordan, Sudan and Yemen, whatever their specific differences.
It is now five fifteen. The call to prayer is being interrupted by the gunshots killing the children of Egypt in a place supposedly incarnating freedom, Tahrir Square. Their spilled blood will certainly give it back its symbolic grandeur as a space dedicated to liberty. As I am about to put my forehead to the ground, let us all pray to the all Mighty for the souls of those that fell today to the bullets of the wicked.


Mouctar Diallo
MA Candidate
Department of Political Science
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
The American University in Cairo
mouctar@aucegypt.edu

Crackdown?

There is considerable risk that if Mubarak stays in power or even in the country there could be a covert crackdown on those involved in the demonstrations. The process of building the new government could then be co-opted with political life in Egypt returning to business as usual: intimidation, oppression, and corruption. The turn of events including the violence of the last few days was orchestrated. The spin from state media and the politicians’ statements make it apparent that the government is still up to its old tricks. It is clear that the regime has not changed its behavior in the least and is simply playing a political game to get out of this situation and indeed to turn it in its favor. Trusting dictators is foolhardy… you know what they say: fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

The following list is of some of the pieces which do not add up.

  1. Journalists attacked/arrested damaging cameras
  2. Ramses Hilton looted/raided targeting cameras
  3. Restriction on leaving house at any time with out ID
  4. Covert collaboration between thugs and army (it’s curious that whenever violence breaks out between thugs and protesters the army is no where to be found, while on other nights they have taken over the checkpoints from the neighborhood watch and there is a base right around the corner)
  5. Intimidation of neighborhood watch groups (passive reaction to thugs, allowing passage to and from fighting protesters)
  6. Intimidation of foreigners to keep us in homes even outside of curfew.
  7. Intermittent problems with mobile connections and website access, including inability to upload media to youtube/BBC and disruption of specific numbers and international calls
  8. Infiltration of demonstrations by pro-Mubarak people taking photos
  9. State media portrayal of the demonstrations as foreign instigated and supported and accrediting it to the Muslim Brotherhood thereby discrediting the popular movement and claiming that demonstrators are divided.
  10. Military police arresting sub-Saharan Africans in home and girls food shopping, not accepting UNHCR blue cards as ID.
  11. Attack on pipeline by “a big terrorist operation”, according to state media, is too convenient (opportunity created to show that country is insecure and at risk because of the demonstrations).

Spiraling situation for refugees.

We just received a call from the Somali community leader reporting that people were arrested inside their homes. They showed their UNHCR blue cards, the only form of identification the refugees have, but the military police not knowing anything about these cards arrested them on the spot. The situation for refugees in Cairo has the potential to spiral out of control very quickly. With various actors providing security and the UNHCR closed the people in these communities are stuck in the middle with no protection. My efforts to reach the media in the US have yielded little results thus far, especially when compared to the engagement of the German and European press. Please if you have personal contacts or suggestions of organizations I can reach out to send them to me or give them my information. Thank you.

There is truth to what they say about the Egyptian army being the best in the world.

Finally ventured out to try to gather things from my apartment 3 blocks away. The neighborhood watch is back and you can feel the heightened stress since the influx of Mubarak thugs who had controlled our street from last night through most of today. They are extremely suspicious of anyone they don’t know and as the situation has developed the watchmen have rotated. After much deliberation, returnign to the apartment to prove we live here he asked us about our work and not understanding the concept of refugee (“political immigrant” is the direct Arabic translation) he got freaked out and we ended up being taken to the military stationed down the road. The calm with which the soldiers approached the situation is unbelievable considering the recent developments and the fact that they are mostly around the age of 20. They asked the various neighborhood men who were all clamoring to talk over one another and explain themselves and our situation to leave us. They asked us questions and after they understood who we are they gave us an escort through the street back to our flat, smoothing our process through the checkpoints, several though we are talking about only a distance of two blocks. The whole experience has reassured me that they are still operating with same standard of excellence I have witnessed through out despite their recent inaction to control the attacks by government supported pro-Mubarak protesters.

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