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Cairo ContestedGovernance, Urban Space, and Global Modernity$

Diane Singerman

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9789774162886

Published to Cairo Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5743/cairo/9789774162886.001.0001

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African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

Chapter:
(p.455) 17 African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo
Source:
Cairo Contested
Author(s):

Diane Singerman

Publisher:
American University in Cairo Press
DOI:10.5743/cairo/9789774162886.003.0018

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues that African migrant groups are marginalized on the level of governmental policies, national discourse, and daily life yet, despite these exclusionary policies and economic hardships, Cairo's spaces of illegality, informality and (transnational) kinship networks, and community solidarity can make it a “more fluid and thus safer urban space” than that experienced by refugees in many other nations. It also covers the ways in which Somali and Sudanese communities, fleeing civil war and violence in their own countries, rebuilt their communities in Egypt, yet, when Sudanese refugees grew frustrated by very slow resettlement programs and the diminishing possibilities to gain refugee status, over 1,200 men, women, and children staged a sit-in. In general, Egypt, with its rigid citizenship laws and its public discourse of exclusionary nationalism and its simultaneous commitment to the protection of refugees and the cosmopolitan daily realities of its urban spaces, seems to be a host society that is both closed and open to refugees.

Keywords:   Cairo, African refugees, governmental policies, community solidarity, Somali, Sudanese, nationalism, refugees, urban spaces

Cosmopolitan Cairo

Cairo, representative of many different faces, nationalities, traditions, languages, and cultures, has enjoyed the status of a cosmopolitan city throughout its history. Egypt also has been sought as a place of exile by sizeable refugee populations, including Palestinians after 1948 and Armenians who fled the 1915 massacre under the Ottomans. Traditionally, Palestinians constitute the largest proportion of exiled residents, today numbering between fifty and seventy thousand (el-Abed 2003).1 In the 1950Sand 1960s, Cairo was host to exiles from liberation movements in Africa and the Middle East, mainly small numbers of political activists.

On 30 December 2005, the situation of refugees in Egypt came to the attention of the world. A three-month sit-in organized by Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers in front of the offices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), located in one of the affluent quarters of Cairo, Muhandisin, was brutally crashed by the Egyptian security forces. Security forces charged, battled, and forcibly removed the refugees, leaving their belongings and papers in piles soaked by water hoses used to (p.456)

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

Sudanese listen to one of their leaders during the sit-in of Sudanese refugees in 2005, near the office of UNHCR (photograph by Stacy Schafer).

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

Fires continued to burn after the government's violent suppression of the Sudanese refugee protest (photograph by Themba Lewis).

(p.457) force an end to the sit-in. As a result, twenty-eight protesters died, many were injured, and hundreds were detained and threatened with deportation to Sudan (FMRS 2006). This event represented a contestation of the hegemonic power of the authoritarian state, limits to integration in the cosmopolitan cities of the Middle East, and failure of the international and national protection systems set up for refugees. The violence that came in the aftermath of the sit-in provides background for this chapter.

The purpose of the chapter is to give insight into the situation of African refugees in an urban Middle Eastern setting.2 The chapter shows how the livelihood, identity constructions, and integration process of Sudanese and Somali refugees in the host society are related to those of their relatives and community members in western countries. As mentioned earlier, Cairo has a long history of receiving different migrant groups. Moreover, the city is perceived by many Egyptians as the capital of Africa. Yet, refugees in Egypt suffer from legal, economic, and social marginalization that renders their lives vulnerable and difficult. At the same time, the uneasy relationship between the refugees and the host society, triggered by competition over scarce economic resources and religious (Islam and Christian) and ethnic (Arab brotherhood and non-Arab ethnicities) tensions, are indicative of identity struggles within Egyptian society. Nonetheless, the refugees exhibit agency and pursue different strategies of coping and securing resources. The experiences of the Sudanese and Somali refugees in Cairo reaffirm that refugees, often themselves a product of globalization yet at the same time actively contributing to its processes, challenge the hegemonic power of the state and the homogenous conceptions of the nation. As this chapter demonstrates, however, their experiences are often ambivalent.

African refugees constitute the vast majority of those who have claimed asylum in Egypt. Among them, Sudanese and Somali refugees are the largest group. As a result of wars in the Horn of Africa, especially Sudan, Ethiopia, and Eritrea, as well as Somalia, new influxes of refugees began arriving in Egypt in the 1990S, most of them heading for Cairo.

The civil war in Sudan is still considered Africa's longest civil war, claiming over two million lives and displacing five million people if the effects of the recent rebellion in Darfur are included. While it would be too simplistic to point to one reason for this tragedy, several factors propel the war, in particular disputes over religion, resources, governance, land, water, and self—determination. Also, to stereotype the civil conflict in Sudan as an Arab Muslim north battling an African Christian south is superficial and highly inaccurate. Conflict and war have consumed Sudan for over thirty-seven of its (p.458) Forty-eight years of independence. Sudan produced a large number of refugees in the 1955–72 period, when disorder erupted in the south shortly before independence, and again after 1983, when the Nimeri regime divided the south into three regions and shari‘a (Islamic law) was imposed in the north. At that time, some Sudanese dissidents from the Nimeri regime (1969–85) sought refuge in Egypt (Grabska 2005b).

In particular, the 1983 civil war in southern Sudan resulted in mass flight not only to the neighboring countries of Uganda, Kenya, and Ethiopia but also to Khartoum. Those internally displaced persons (IDPs) were forced to settle around the periphery of Khartoum and to live in acute poverty under dire conditions (Assal 2004). With the hard-line Islamist government coming to power in 1989, many of the southerners, who were predominantly of the Christian religion and non—Arabic ethnic background, felt insecure because of the imposition of shari‘a in the North and the government's policy of Arabization and Islamization of the South (ICG 2002).3 Subsequently, government-ordered demolitions of IDP camps around Khartoum and generally dire conditions forced many IDPs to flee to Egypt, as it was an accessible location. In addition, continuous human rights abuses and lack of freedom of expression in Sudan produced an increasing number of political dissidents who also fled Sudan (ICG 2002). With the signing of the peace agreement between the government in Khartoum and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in January 2005, the return of populations to southern Sudan, both spontaneous and organized by UNHCR, began, but continued political uncertainty places new pressures on the process. At the same time, as a result of the ongoing conflict in Darfur, there has been a continuous displacement of the Darfurian population not only across the border to Chad but also to Egypt.

Egypt and Sudan had strong historical links during nineteenth-century British rule, under which Sudan was considered part of Egypt and was ruled by a British governor supported by Egyptian troops. Traditionally, (especially northern) Sudanese used to come to Egypt for education, business, and medical treatment, as well as for holidays. Although it is difficult to estimate how many Sudanese live in Egypt, the numbers predominantly quoted by various sources range from 2.2 to 4 million, although only a very small portion of them have officially claimed asylum.4 According to UNHCR sources, at the end of 2004, about 18,000 Sudanese in Egypt had official refugee status even though an estimated 150,000 Sudanese have applied for asylum in Egypt since 1995. This suggests a success rate of a bit more than 8 percent (UNHCR 2004).

In the 1960s and 1970s, Cairo was home to a handful of Somalis who were either diplomats or students studying at Egyptian national universities. In (p.459) the 1980s, families started relocating to Cairo from Somalia to pursue good, affordable educational opportunities for their children, while the fathers and husbands worked and sent money from Arab Gulf countries. When the 1991 civil war broke out and the Somali state collapsed, a large number of refugees fled to Cairo from their homeland, as well as from Gulf countries. Most of this first wave of refugees resettled in the west in the mid-1990S.

Since the late 1990S, Cairo has attracted a diverse group of Somali refugees who had fled their homeland after the 1991 civil war and been living in different Middle Eastern countries, such as Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen. Refugees also have continued to come to the Egyptian capital from Somalia and neighboring African countries, such as Kenya and Ethiopia. The relocation of Somali refugees from other Middle Eastern countries to Egypt has been part of individual and collective efforts to escape problems of legal vulnerability, racism, police harassment, exploitation by employers, and fear of deportation.

Although Cairo is home to different ethnic groups, it remains in many ways a place where African migrant groups are marginalized, on the level of governmental policies, national discourse, and daily life. As a founding signatory to both the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol and as signatory to the Organization of African Unity (OAD) Convention of 1969 Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa and by having ratified the conventions, Egypt has undertaken the international obligations to provide asylum, protection, and guaranteed rights for refugees on its territory. Because it never created implementing legislation to provide administrative institutions for the practical implementation of its obligations, however, and because it stipulated a number of reservations to the 1951 Convention, the rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt have been constrained significantly (see also UNHCR 2003a, 2003b).5 These reservations enable the Egyptian government to consider refugees as foreigners who are excluded from several basic rights to which nationals are entitled. As a result, refugee children are restricted in their rights to state-funded education, and the right to work for refugees is regulated by Egypt's domestic legislation concerning the employment of foreigners, Law 137/I981, whereby refugees are required to obtain a work permit like any other foreigner. This permit is unattainable by most refugees because of the extremely difficult bureaucratic procedures involved, the lack of willing employers, and the work permit fee. Refugees also are ineligible for government-sponsored health and educational services.6

UNHCR in Egypt has assumed responsibility for refugee status determination (RSD) in the vacuum created by the Egyptian government's (p.460) unwillingness to carry it out. Asylum seekers register with UNHCR to apply for refugee status. UNHCR makes final decisions based on stringent legal criteria about the applicants' legal status by granting them asylum or rejecting their claims. As a result, those who are recognized receive international protection and legal residence in Egypt, whereas those who were unsuccessful in their appeals often stay illegally in Egypt, as they are unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin. UNHCR's procedures in Cairo have been subject to the criticism of researchers, refugee law advocates, and refugees themselves, who point to lengthy procedures, inadequate information, lack of external appeal mechanisms, and some arbitrary decisions (Kagan 2002). At the same time, because of the diminishing funding available to UNHCR and other organizations providing assistance to refugees, as well as the growth of the refugee population in Egypt, the range of services and support offered have been declining (Grabska 2006; Kagan 2002; UNHCR 2003a).

Refugees residing in Egypt today come from more than thirty-four countries. The number of Sudanese and Somali refugees is difficult to estimate because UNHCR rejects many of their asylum claims. According to official statistics, out of the seventy-two thousand persons who have applied for asylum since 1997, around thirty-two thousand have been granted refugee status. Of the successful applicants, 73 percent are recognized Sudanese refugees,

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

Sudanese refugees show their official identification cards to a journalist to prove they had been seeking refugee status and asylum through UNHCR (photograph by Stacy Schafer).

(p.461) constituting the largest refugee population under the protection of UNHCR in Egypt. As of the end of 2005, 13,327 recognized refugees remained in Egypt (FMRS 2006). Somalis represent the second-largest group at 18 percent, amounting to thirty-seven hundred recognized refugees (UNHCR 2004).The vast majority of refugees, even those whose claims were rejected on appeal and whose files were closed by the UNHCR (so-called ‘closed files’),7 choose Cairo as their shelter, where they daily negotiate their space, claim their identity, and reconcile their cultural and religious differences.

In addition to protection, UNHCR, together with its implementing partners, provides limited assistance to recognized refugees. Among its partners are Caritas, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), a number of faith-based institutions (mainly churches), and some refugee-run nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). With the growth of the refugee population, the depletion of funds available to UNHCR, and the financial limitations of NGOs and churches, the majority of recognized refugees are left with very limited support. In addition, those who were rejected by UNHCR and are residing in Egypt illegally are completely excluded from formal assistance, relying on the help of some faith-based institutions and community organizations, which serve both recognized and rejected refugees. Like many foreigners, refugees are unable to benefit from the rent-controlled housing that is available to Egyptians and are thus forced to rent furnished apartments that are more expensive. Thus, the daily reality of Sudanese and Somali refugees is one of economically and legally marginalized groups who tend to live in communities that are isolated from the larger host society. Moreover, Egyptian citizenship law does not provide for naturalization, so refugees, like any other foreign residents in Egypt, cannot enjoy full integration into Egyptian society. This makes most refugees feel that their life in Egypt is transient and promises no secure future.8

Public discourse, furthermore, marginalizes non-Egyptian residents and even portrays them as a burden to society and a source of serious social problems. For example, since 2001, the Egyptian daily newspaper al-Ahram and weekly magazine Rose al-Yusuf have increasingly published editorials, special reports, and letters to the editor that highlight problems concerning the “sea” of illegal African migrants that is “flooding” the Egyptian society and “robbing” its youth of employment (see Subhi and Essam Abdel-Gawad 2003). African migrants have been represented in such printed media as drug dealers and a threat to the moral values of Egyptian society.

An important factor that makes Egypt an attractive destination for refugees is that it has one of the largest resettlement programs in the world, managed by UNHCR and private sponsorship programs run by the Australian (p.462) and Canadian embassies.9 whose countries are host to a significant number of Sudanese and Somali refugees. With the difficult conditions of survival in Egypt and limited access to integration in the country, a majority of the refugees and asylum seekers there are interested in being resettled to a western countries (mainly, Australia, Canada, the United States, and Finland). Resettlement to a third country is advocated by UNHCR as one of the three durable solutions for refugees, the other two being voluntary repatriation to the country of origin and local integration in the country of asylum. Since 1997, UNHCR Cairo has resettled over eighteen thousand recognized refugees, in addition to a few thousand who left on embassy-administered programs.

For many, resettlement programs constitute an incentive and an opportunity for bettering one's life in the west through escape from war, insecurity, harsh and oppressive political regimes, lack of economic possibilities, and poverty. That people migrate to Cairo in order to seek resettlement in the United States, Canada, Australia, or elsewhere has been confirmed in several research studies of Somali and Sudanese migrants (Al-Sharmani 2004; Grabska 2005b; 2006; FMRS 2006). Hence, as argued in the Forced Migration and Refugee Studies report, A Tragedy of Errors: Report on the Events Surrounding the Three-month Sit-in and Forced Removal of Sudanese Refugees in Cairo, “Many asylum seekers came to view resettlement almost as a right, but only about a quarter of them have had this expectation met” (FMRS 2006, 8).The majority remain in Egypt anyway, managing their often marginal status and the risks of insecurity, hard economic conditions, and social marginalization (FMRS 2006).

Despite these exclusionary policies, negative public discourse, and the daily reality of economic hardship and precarious social and legal conditions for refugees, Cairo offers a fluid and thus safer urban space in which refugees can live and pursue their livelihood. For example, unlike Saudi Arabia, refugees can move in the city with less fear of detention and deportation. They encounter less police harassment and racially motivated verbal and physical assaults from nationals than they do in other host societies. Moreover, like many poor Egyptians, refugees learn to strategize and creatively resist government control in order to secure a livelihood. They get jobs as domestic workers or vendors. They establish community-based networks to manage their daily affairs (for example, establishing community-run educational projects in the case of Sudanese and Somali refugee communities and managing money transfer offices to receive and send remittances in the case of Somalis). Furthermore, refugees become desirable customers for some Egyptians who find it more lucrative to rent their apartments to non-Egyptian tenants.

(p.463) Similarly, the owners of coffeehouses welcome refugee customers, who spend many evening hours buying tea while discussing their affairs. Thus, life in Cairo for Sudanese and Somali refugees has its contradictions of exclusion and openness, marginality and resourcefulness, and safety and racism.

Insiders and Outsiders: Refugees and Discourses of National Identities and Citizenship

An analysis of the lives of African refugees in Cairo offers an interesting and fresh angle on issues of national identity, citizenship, and local and transnational communities. First, notions of multiculturalism and ethnic plurality are absent from the Egyptian context on the levels of both government policies and public discourse. The citizenship policies of the country reflect a patriarchal and ethnicity-based notion of Egyptian society. For example, permanent migrants and long-term refugees are not eligible for citizenship status and rights regardless of the length of their residence in the country, their resources, and/or their contribution to society. Moreover, official discourses (government-owned media, school curricula, and a lot of the printed literature) present a unitary notion of Egyptian identity that conceals the ethnic and cultural heterogeneity of the society and privileges Egyptians of Arab descent. This has resulted in the marginalization (and recent resistance) of non-Arab Egyptian minority groups, such as Nubians. Moreover, this uniform Arab-centric conceptualization of Egyptian identity makes the integration of non-Arab migrant groups into the society almost unattainable.

In contrast, ethnic plurality and multiculturalism are supported by government policies in the western countries where Sudanese and Somali refugees actively seek resettlement. Yet, the daily realities of Somali and Sudanese migrants (many of whom have ties with relatives and communities in Egypt) in these countries show that legal citizenship translates into inequitable membership in the host society on economic, cultural, and political levels (Brubaker 1989; Al-Sharmani 2004). In fact, an increasing number of Somali families have relocated from the west to Egypt in the past five years to escape a life as marginalized citizens. Thus, the experiences of refugees in Egypt and their relatives in western countries reveal the limits of citizenship and national identities in both contexts.

Second, an analysis of the daily lives of Sudanese and Somali refugees sheds light on several important and interconnected theoretical issues. The intricate community-based support system that both refugee groups resort to underscores the critical role that ethnicity-based community plays in supporting marginalized groups. Yet, the interaction and identity construction (p.464) of refugees in both groups reveal the internal heterogeneity of such communities. Furthermore, the lives of Sudanese and Somali refugees highlight the constant interplay of the local and the translocal as they form communities in local neighborhoods of Cairo but develop and depend on the support of a transnational network of relatives and fellow ethnic group members for their livelihood and future.

Third, refugees in the global South who reside in urban spaces confront and directly contribute to the wider issues of the globalization process and are indirectly part of the cosmopolitanism debate. Policy makers, refugee advocates, and researchers, however, often overlook refugees' daily lives and interactions with local urban economies and cultures. Refugees' presence in these urban spaces poses major challenges to international and national policies on refugees. At the same time, it questions the hegemonic power of the state, the narrowly defined categories of citizenship, and static concepts of identity. The majority of forced migration literature focuses on issues of integration and rights of refugees in developed countries, or the situation of refugees in camps. It tends to ignore the fact that urban areas in the developing world, and in Africa in particular, have become the main hosts to refugee populations. Despite recent attempts to expand the limited discussion of urban refugees in developing countries, a dearth of literature remains.10 The transnational nature of refugee livelihoods and the impact of this transnational presence on host communities only recently have attracted the attention of researchers and policy makers.

At the same time, urban settings of developing countries pose dramatic challenges for survival, yet offer ways of “hiding” illegality and social insecurity/ vulnerability. With soaring unemployment rates in Egypt and the struggling economy, more and more rural migrants are drawn to urban spaces in search of work and survival opportunities. Refugees and asylum seekers with restricted rights and privileges end up sharing the social and economic space with domestic migrants. Asef Bayat has described this phenomenon as “floating social clusters”—the migrants, refugees, unemployed, underemployed, squatters, street vendors, street children, and other marginalized groups—whose growth has been accelerated by the process of economic globalization. The encroachment of these groups on urban spaces in developing countries tends to challenge the notions of order, urban governance, and urban modernity espoused by Third World political elites (Bayat 2004, 41). The local realities of the host society determine the type of exile experience offered to refugees while putting in question the economic, social, and cultural norms prevalent within it (Grabska 2005b).

(p.465) Sudanese and Somali Refugees: A Comparative Ethnography

Although very little interaction occurs between Sudanese and Somali refugees in their strategies to earn a living, a comparative analysis of their lives in Cairo is important for several reasons. First, the ties that the groups have with the host society are different. Sudanese, as an ethnic group, have a longer history of residence in Egypt and can make claims on political links between Egypt and the Sudan that can be traced to the nineteenth century.11 Large numbers of predominantly northern, Muslim Sudanese have resided for extensive periods in Egypt, going back and forth between the two countries, as well as living as expatriates in Egyptian society. A study by Anita Fábos of the Muslim Arab ‘expatriate’ community in ‘Ain Shams, which dates from the 1940s, shows that this group was investing in a future in Cairo, while Sudanese ‘exiles’ who were forcibly displaced from Sudan see their stay in Egypt as temporary while either attempting to go back to Sudan or to migrate to other destinations (Fábos 1999). In fact, Sudanese residents in Egypt enjoyed special privileges similar to the status of nationals, which gave them easier access to employment, residence, education, and ownership of property, until the failed assassination attempt on President Husni Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1995. When the Sudanese government at the time was implicated in the attempt, the Egyptian government revoked the special privileges of Sudanese.

With the influx of southern Sudanese refugees in the mid-1990s, the composition of the Sudanese community in Egypt changed. Southerners were largely Christian, often were unable to communicate in Arabic, had much darker skin, and had lower educational and skill levels. They faced more difficult challenges in interacting with Egyptian locals, who were predominantly Muslim and immersed in Arab culture. At the same time, they were regarded with suspicion by the established Sudanese community in Egypt, which felt that its own position would be undermined by the influx of poorer and culturally distinct countrymen and countrywomen (Fábos 1999; Grabska 2005b, 2006). By contrast, ties between Somalia and Egypt only began in the late 1960s and were mostly confined to the educational sphere. Only in the early 1990s did a considerable number of Somali refugees arrive in Egypt. Second, the interactions of Sudanese and Somalis with refugee organizations, such as UNHCR, church-run refugee assistance programs, and nongovernmental legal aid programs, shed light on the interesting dynamics of refugee life in a cosmopolitan urban space. Because of their larger number, their longer period of residence, and their more active involvement with church-run refugee programs, Sudanese refugees are perceived by Somalis as being in a (p.466) better position than they are. The fact that a considerable number of Sudanese refugees are Christians also leads Somali refugees to perceive the Sudanese as privileged by services provided mainly through churches or sponsored by predominantly Christian countries. As Muslims, however, Somali refugees share their religious faith with a large majority of Egyptians, and some would argue that Somali refugees are in a better position to integrate into Egyptian society because of this factor. Moreover, while the Sudanese are perceived (by refugee aid organizations) to be more formally organized and more involved with the host society, Somalis are seen as divided and less integrated with Egyptian society and as reliant on internal community resources.

In regard to their financial situation, significant differences exist between the two communities. Sudanese refugees seek employment in the Egyptian informal market, whereas the majority of Somali refugees who work seek employment within the Somali community (which includes refugees and expatriates who have relocated from the west). Somali refugees are concentrated in two residential areas, whereas the Sudanese are more dispersed in the city, although they still tend to live together.

To conclude, a comparative analysis of the daily lives of Sudanese and Somali refugees provides us with two different and yet interconnected contexts through which we can get a deeper understanding of the following issues: living as a refugee in a host society, building communities in diaspora, and constructions of local, national, and transnational identities in a fluid and cosmopolitan urban space.

In what follows, we present an ethnographic analysis of some of the significant aspects of the daily lives of Sudanese and Somali refugees. The ethnography is based on fieldwork conducted by the authors (from 2001 to 2003 in the case of the Somali refugees and from 2003 to 2004 in the case of Sudanese refugees). We chose the ethnographic approach to capture the complexity of the lives of these two groups, in which they exhibit both marginality and agency as individuals and communities. That is, the ethnographic method allows us to portray and analyze the daily strategies and challenges of individual refugees to secure livelihood and negotiate membership in the society; their transnational network of familial support; and the efforts of their communities to organize, deal with inner differences and conflicts, form collective identities, and resist marginalization.

Within the Egyptian host society, Somalis and Sudanese maintain their distinctive communities by occupying separate neighborhoods and often living close to members of the same ethnic, religious, or community background. Their lives and interactions with the local societal fabric are presented in two (p.467) experiences of Ard al-Liwa', an area where Somali refugees reside, and Arba‘ wa Nuss (Four and a Half), an area host to displaced Sudanese.

Refugees within the Local Fabric

Deeqo wakes up to the sounds of vendors and their customers in the busy street of Mu ‘tamadiya in the Ard al-Liwa’ neighborhood in Cairo, which is host to many poor Egyptians and displaced Somalis. It has become a familiar background to her life. Deeqo and her three children fled Somalia in the early 1990s for several host societies, including Saudi Arabia and Libya, before moving to Cairo five years ago. Deeqo shares her three-bedroom apartment with two other Somali families: a Somali woman and her two nieces and a Somali man and his nephew. The monthly rent of the apartment is LE600 (equivalent to $105 according to the exchange rate in 2005), which is divided equally between the three families. Deeqo has a sister in the Netherlands who sends her $100 a month. Deeqo herself works as a maid for a Somali family that moved to Cairo from the United States. She makes $100 a month, and sends half of her salary to her elderly mother in Somalia.

Habiba, Deeqo's roommate, takes care of her young nieces while her mother and sister (the mother of her nieces) work in Saudi Arabia as domestic workers and send money to their children, as well as to other siblings in Somalia and Yemen. Jaama and his uncle, the two male housemates who are renting one of the rooms, receive money from an older uncle who works as a bank clerk in the United States. Moreover, Jaama, a twenty-year-old, works in an Internet café, where he helps his Egyptian employer collect fees from Somali customers who frequent the café on a daily basis. Jamaa is paid LE150 (equivalent to $26) per month for working four nights a week from 6 p.m. until midnight. Although the pay is meager, Jamaa is happy that he has free access to the Internet and appreciates the time he spends socializing with other Somalis in the café and on the Internet, as they discuss their lives and futures as diasporic Somalis. All three families are seeking resettlement through the UNHCR office in Cairo.

Justo is a southern Sudanese from the Bari ethnic group. He maneuvers between the two narrow parts of his flat, which houses his wife, himself, and nine of their children. He has to get four of his youngest children ready for school because his wife works as a live-in maid during the week. Justo lives in the Kilo Arba‘ wa Nuss neighborhood, which hosts many migrant families from Upper Egypt and displaced Sudanese. Justo's family fled southern Sudan in 1995 for Khartoum, where they lived in IDP camps until 1999. They then decided to seek asylum in Egypt through UNHCR. Their claim was rejected (p.468) and consequently their file was closed. They are residing in Cairo illegally with expired passports and no residency permit, fearing arrest and potential deportation. Although sporadically, the Egyptian authorities tend to single out the more visible foreigners (by their darker skin) during security sweeps that are a “crackdown on illegal migrants” (Lindsey 2003).

Justo's home in exile is located in one of the poorest neighborhoods of urban Cairo. The three-room compound where Justo's family lives is shared by Fatima and her three children, who fled Darfur for Khartoum and arrived in Cairo two years before. Fatima is a recognized refugee; however, she has been denied resettlement and is staying in Egypt while her husband works in the Gulf. The third room of the apartment is occupied by three single young men-two from Khartoum and one from southern Sudan-whose applications for asylum either have been rejected or are on appeal. The monthly rent for this poorly constructed and unfurnished three-bedroom compound with shared latrine and a basic cooking space amounts to LE400 (equivalent to $70), with Justo's family paying half because they occupy the largest room.

Justo suffers from tuberculosis and has not been able to work for the past two years. He feels frustrated because in Sudan he was a professional and a provider for his family. Now, he has been relegated to taking care of the house and children as his wife is the household's main breadwinner. She earns LE400 per month (equivalent to $70) working six days per week for an Egyptian family and only comes home once a week to spend time with her family. Their eldest son works as a gardener, earning a meager salary of LEI50 per month. Four of the youngest children attend the church-run school for displaced Sudanese in the neighborhood, while the remaining four stay at home as they are ineligible for public education because of their illegal status. As the majority of the recognized refugee children and all children of rejected asylum seekers have very limited access to public education, they rely on church-run refugee schools. Unfortunately, the one church-run secondary school for refugees in Cairo cannot accommodate all the children.

Fatima, the occupant of one of the rooms of the apartment, does not work and relies on a small monthly allowance (LE200) from UNHCR, on remittances from her husband working in the Gulf ($100 every three months), and on her sister, who was resettled to the United States ($50 every month). Her two younger children receive an education grant from UNHCR and attend the church-run school in Arba‘ wa Nuss. Her third daughter stays at home. Only one of the three young men occupying the third room occasionally works as a day laborer, where he is paid about LEI2 per day ($2.50) for an eight-hour shift. The other two receive money from their families in Sudan and (p.469) from relatives resettled to Australia and the United States. All the household members are seeking resettlement through either UNHCR or the private sponsorship program run by the Australian embassy.

Ard al-Liwa', where Deeqo and her children have been living since she arrived in Cairo five years ago, along with many other Somali refugees, is a typical poor neighborhood in the city. It has narrow unpaved alleys and shabby apartment buildings that are attached to one another. The main street of the neighborhood is the setting for an open market, with donkey carts, cars, and locals sharing the narrow space. What is distinct about this poor urban neighborhood is that it has become the home of many Somali refugees since the late 1990s. Family and ethnicity-based strategies of survival are what almost all these refugees depend on for their daily lives. As they live together and congregate in coffee shops and Internet cafés, the Somalis are highly visible in this small crowded neighborhood.

For the past six years, the arrival of this Somali refugee community has had its uneven and contradictory effects on the Egyptians in the neighborhood. On the one hand, there have been the usual adjustment problems for both the host and the refugee communities to go through (Al-Sharmani 2003; 2004). For example, some of the local Egyptians felt that the Somali households were too noisy because a large number of people lived in them. Also, the numbers of refugees and their race, language, and distinctive dress made them quite visible, and some Egyptians felt threatened by them because they encroached on their physical space. Although hardly admitted in public debates, race plays a significant role in Egyptian perceptions of beauty and respectability. Light shades of skin color are associated with beauty and attraction, whereas darker skin color is perceived as ‘different’ and undesirable. Thus, a considerable number of the refugees (most of whom are visibly darker than Egyptians) suffer racial slurs from local people. In addition to being called by derogatory terms that refer to their dark skin color, such as asmar (dark), iswid (black), and zingi (negro), refugees complain of discriminatory behavior in certain sectors of the society, such as exploitation by landlords and shop owners, who overcharge them. Instances of street fights between Somali and Egyptian children have escalated into confrontations between parents.

In short, Somali refugees often point out that they feel structurally and racially marginalized. In addition, their religious identity as Muslims, which they share with the majority of the host society; does not seem to mitigate the label of ‘outsiders.’ These refugees feel trapped in Cairo because they cannot find legal employment, are ineligible for permanent residence or citizenship regardless of their refugee status, and hence do not feel stable (p.470) and secure. In fact, most of the refugees in Cairo think of their time in the city as a transient phase that hopefully will lead to resettlement in the west (Al-Sharmani 1998; 2004).

Nonetheless, it is inaccurate to describe the relationship between the Somali refugees and Egyptian society as completely negative. For instance, in recent years, as more Somalis rent apartments and frequent Internet cafes in Ard al-Liwa', more Egyptian landlords and café proprietors have begun to view Somalis as desirable customers who are good for business. On the part of the refugees, while they may not wish to continue to live in Egypt as refugees, many aspire to come back to it at a later stage in their lives after they have acquired citizenship in North American or European countries. Many of these refugees desire the kinds of lives led by an increasing number of Somali families that have moved to Cairo from western countries that granted them citizenship. These American or European Somalis, who are usually better educated and more financially secure than the refugees, form an upper class of diasporic Somalis in Cairo who enjoy powerful economic and social relationships vis-à -vis the Somali refugees.

Arba‘ wa Nuss is an informal zone between Madinat Nasr and the Suez Road, on the outskirts of Cairo. It was constructed in the absence of rules and governmental regulations, with no major city involvement (for further discussion of informal housing settlements, see both Dorman and Bell in this volume). For a long time, the area had no services, such as water, electricity, or roads. In fact, the streets are still not paved, and the houses, which are made out of bricks with aluminum roofing, often are left unfinished, unpainted, and with limited access to water facilities.

Arba‘ wa Nuss represents a territory of common experience for two seemingly different groups. The predominant majority of the Sudanese in the area is concentrated on the top of Hamza hill, near the St. Bahkita Catholic center and school. Egyptian Coptic Christians tend to live near the Coptic church just beyond the Sudanese quarter, with the rest of the population spread across the area. Muslims, both Egyptians and Sudanese, live further away from the Christian communities and churches. For both Egyptians and Sudanese, Arba‘ wa Nuss is not a home by design but rather by default, constituting a shared experience of displacement. Egyptians living in the area are predominantly internal migrants, coming mainly from Upper Egypt, Minya, and Asyut in search of better job opportunities and life conditions. Egyptian Copts and Muslims have been occupying this area for the past ten years. An economically underprivileged and marginalized group in Egyptian society, Sa‘idis (a term used to describe Upper Egyptians) are drawn to Arba‘ wa Nuss (p.471) because of their existing family connections, cheap rent, and job opportunities. Most of them have escaped poverty and family conflict in their villages and moved to Cairo to look for a home for their families (Le Houérou 2004). They followed their brothers, sisters, and cousins, who had taken a chance on the city. Now their relatives join in to try their luck.

The Sudanese in the area, meanwhile, rely heavily on ethnic and tribal links in addition to family connections as a significant factor in choosing a place of residence. Arba‘ wa Nuss is considered the destination, often chosen because it offers cheap rent, a safe haven provided by the presence of churches, and access to church-run school facilities for children. The two groups, displaced Sudanese and migrant Egyptians, represent to an extent ‘aliens’ in the context of Cairo and its ‘native population,’ both facing the issue of economic survival and cultural adaptation in a ‘foreign’ or unfamiliar urban setting. Arba‘ wa Nuss represents a territory where two marginalized displaced populations coexist and survive on the margins of greater urban Cairo.

In comparison to Ard al-Liwa', which hosts a mixture of local Caireans and a foreign Somali population, Arba‘ wa Nuss presents a different challenge for interaction and coexistence among the Upper Egyptians and the Sudanese. Poverty is a condition shared by both communities in the zone and, hence, creates a forum for shared daily financial struggles. The relations between the two communities are marked by a degree of tension and confrontation. Interactions have changed overtime, however, as an increasing number of Sudanese settle in the area and the Egyptian community becomes more impoverished as a result of the increasing population pressure, economic decline, and rising unemployment rates. According to representatives of the churches serving Christian Sudanese and Christian Upper Egyptians in the area, in the late 1990S, the relations between the two communities were harmonious and friendly, with little violence or tension (Grabska 2005a).12 If Egyptians insulted or attacked Sudanese, the latter would ignore them and remain quiet to avoid trouble. They felt they were aliens in the area, with no rights and no one to protect them (Grabska 2005a).

With the growth of the Sudanese population in the neighborhood and increased assistance and services available to them through the establishment of the Catholic church center in the area at the beginning of 2000, Sudanese became more assertive (as they felt they had some protection from the church) and started responding to the Egyptians' hostile and often violent behavior. Between 2002 and 2004, tensions between Egyptians and Sudanese refugees rose, escalating into physical violence. Some Sudanese in the neighborhood complained of attacks by organized gangs of unemployed young men, often (p.472) involved in drugs and other illicit activities. For some time, these youths tended to terrorize the neighborhood, bothering the Sudanese and other Egyptian residents, both Christians and Muslims. Many Sudanese parents, including Justo and Fatima, were afraid to let their children play in the streets because of the hostility exhibited by Egyptian children and youth. These tensions are common throughout Cairo, but they usually occur in a more violent form in impoverished neighborhoods. They result from frustration caused by poor economic conditions, unemployment, and unemployed youth who engage in illicit drug use or petty crime. They also are linked to the racial discrimination and xenophobia common in Egyptian society and governmental discourse that blames migrants for the country's economic decline.

Sudanese, for their part, cause problems for local Egyptians when drunken refugees bother women on the street or get into fights with the local youth. Such behavior is seen as violating the cultural and religious norms of local Egyptians, especially for the Muslim community, where the consumption of alcoholic beverages is proscribed by religious tradition and law (although some Muslims certainly consume alcohol).

Nonetheless, to characterize the relations between the Egyptian hosts and their Sudanese guests as purely confrontational would be too simplistic. Many local Egyptians recognize a positive side to having Sudanese settle in the area, as their businesses receive more customers. Recently, this neglected area drew the attention of the Egyptian government, which led to the National Council for Childhood and Motherhood deciding to provide limited health services for both Egyptians and Sudanese in the neighborhood (Grabska 2005a; 2005b).

Mobilization and Protest

Although tensions between Egyptians and refugees sometimes result in more organized violence, until recently there has never been a mass confrontation between the communities. As a result of the division of responsibilities between the government and UNHCR, refugees perceive UNHCR as their sole protector and guarantor of their well-being. In past years, demonstrations have been organized by different refugee groups to protest UNHCR's policies and the lack of livelihood possibilities in Egypt. These protests always have been divided by nationality. Hence, it would be difficult to speak about one refugee community in Egypt. Somali refugees have demonstrated in past years on several occasions over their low recognition rate, lack of resettlement opportunities, and inadequate assistance, especially the unbearable living conditions faced by woman-headed households (Al-Sharmani 2005). (p.473)

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo
African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

Women and children, a major part of the sit-in, particularly suffered when the Egyptian authorities attacked them. Eleven children and several women died (photographs by Stacy Schafer).

(p.474)
African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

Daily life during the sit-in was highly organized and volunteers gave lessons to the protestors’ children (photograph by Stacy Schafer).

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

The refugees communicated their goals directly to the media and the Egyptian public through banners (photograph by Stacy Schafer).

(p.475) At the end of September 2005, an unprecedented long-term sit-in organized by Sudanese refugees started in a park near the UNHCR office. The whole effort was extremely well organized, and refugees planned their protest for months. The trigger for the sit-in was the worsening situation of Sudanese refugees in Egypt and the changing international climate for Sudanese refugees in general. As of June 2004, RSD for Sudanese asylum seekers was suspended by UNHCR Cairo, and prospects for resettlement to western countries worsened as a result of the ongoing peace process in southern Sudan.

The sit-in was organized and run by Sudanese refugees, who formed an association named Refugee Voices. The park was closed off, with internal security monitoring the crowd. Over twelve hundred people gathered in the park and divided it into sections for women and children and sections for men. The organizers arranged for the protesters to use the toilet facilities of a nearby mosque, and blankets and sheets were put up to shelter protestors from the sun. Designated refugees were responsible for public relations and communication with visitors, including handing out a list of thirteen demands voiced by the demonstrators. Among others, these demands included protection from forced repatriation, protection of and assistance to vulnerable groups, the reopening of ‘closed files,’ and resettlement in a third country. Banners were hung on the park fences calling for release of missing refugees in Egypt. Other banners read: “Attention please: Who will restore our rights?” The issue of rights was an underlying motivation for the organizers. “Unite and demand for your rights in order not to be abused again,” read the manifesto prepared by the sit-in participants.

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

Security personnel examine and dispose of the belongings of the refugees after the early-morning battle at the refugee sit-in (photograph by Themba Lewis).

(p.476) The protest lasted three months, with the Egyptian police guarding the protestors and many Egyptian passers-by sympathizing with the Sudanese. This was unprecedented in the modern history of Egypt, given that in the summer 2005 Egyptian demonstrations from the opposition Kefaya movement were brutally suppressed by the police and many were jailed. With myriad attempts at negotiation between UNHCR and the refugees, the frustration and determination of the protesting refugees grew every day. There was confusion about who UNHCR should negotiate with, who the leaders of the demonstration were, and to what extent UNHCR wanted and was in a position to address the demands of the Sudanese refugees. UNHCR also assumed a rather condescending and combative attitude toward the protestors, which made it difficult to find a peaceful solution to the sit-in. UNHCR informed the government that it was unable to reach a negotiated agreement or solution to the problem. This was understood as a dead end, and the government took the decision to remove the protestors by force (FMRS 2006).

Finally, the state showed its hegemonic power. The demonstration ended on 30 December 2005, in a brutal intervention by Egyptian security forces that left twenty-eight protesters dead, many injured, and hundreds detained and threatened with deportation (FMRS 2006).

The demonstration showed the agency of refugees and their ability to mobilize around rights and claim them even under severe restrictions (emergency law in Egypt). The exclusively Sudanese nature of this mobilization revealed the lack of common identity among refugees and the precedence of national interests and politics over cosmopolitan lifestyles and daily interactions. The desire and the strength with which the Sudanese were determined to claim their place and demand citizenship rights were a challenge to both the international politics of protection and the national policy of viewing refugees as a transitory problem. Sudanese refugees were searching for a permanent solution to their situation in a place where they can thrive and feel protected. This move represented a challenge to the

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

Refugees left behind critical family documents and mementos in the chaos of the violent confrontation ending the sit-in (photograph by Themba Lewis).

(p.477) Egyptian state and its policy of exclusion, which manifests itself in complete disregard of the international responsibilities that Egypt took upon itself by signing the refugee-oriented conventions.

Transnational Lives of Refugees

The daily lives of refugee families in Ard al-Liwa' and Arba‘ wa Nuss reflect a transnational pattern of life in which family members living in different nation-states pool resources and make joint decisions about the welfare and the future of the family. Moreover, as a result of their diasporic experiences in different host societies and the consequences of the ongoing civil war in their homeland, the Somalis and Sudanese in these two neighborhoods make claims to multiple local and translocal identities. The diasporic experiences and identity discourses of community members are heterogeneous and shaped by a diasporic way of life that is sustained by a transnational support network of relatives and fellow members of the same clan or ethnic group. These multiple identity discourses are reflected in the way people interact with one another and make claims to different spaces in the neighborhoods.

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

Hundreds of security personnel and their equipment had surrounded the square in preparation for attacking the refugees (photograph by Themba Lewis).

Somali and Sudanese refugees in Cairo, and in this case in Ard al-Liwa' and in Arba‘ wa Nuss respectively, make use of several distinct identity claims as the basis for their daily networking, their interactions, and the physical space they assert. These are family relations, clan (for Somalis) or ethnic (for Sudanese) affiliations, diasporic affiliations, and residential affiliations. Many refugees in Cairo depend on their families for daily survival and future plans, even if they live in other countries. Family members collectively engage in transnational strategies to share, secure, and maximize different family resources for the well-being and security of family members. The family unit in this case is by no means confined to the nuclear family but extends to single and married siblings, first and second cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.

(p.478) For Somalis, a transnational lifestyle is much stronger than for Sudanese. Hence, in Ard al-Liwa', Somali refugees maintain their material and emotional investment in their transnational families in several ways. First, family members, whether immediate or extended relatives, share housing and financial resources. Moreover, refugees in Cairo and their relatives who live in different nation-states maintain connections and attachments through monthly remittances, weekly online chats, monthly telephone calls, and even video tapes that document the lives of different family members in various host societies. The sharing of family obligations across nation-states is another venue through which family members as a collective unit maximize their livelihood. For example, Habiba, Deeqo's roommate, is responsible for taking care of her two young nieces in Cairo. Meanwhile, her mother and sister, who work in Saudi Arabia, are responsible for the financial support of family members living in Cairo, Yemen, and Somalia. Habiba herself has left two teenage sons in Somalia, who are being looked after by her other sister. She occasionally sends them $50 that she earns intermittently from selling incense and Somali food to Somali families who moved to Cairo from the west. Habiba's husband, who is in Libya, also sends remittances to the family in Somalia and Cairo whenever he finds work as a manual laborer.

For Sudanese refugees, in comparison, family relations play an integral part of their survival strategies whether in Sudan, in exile, in one of the neighboring countries, or in a western country of resettlement. Similar to Somalis,

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

An informal school run by the Somali Development Organization for Somali refugee children in Ard al-Liwa' (photograph by Miriam Aertker, for the Somali Development Organization).

(p.479) the extended family resources across the globe are pooled together disregarding one's refugee status. Those who succeed in being resettled to a western country take upon themselves the obligation to support family members, relatives, and friends who stay behind in Cairo, Kenya, Uganda, or Sudan. Remittances are the major source of income, as well as an integral part of transnational family relations (Riak Akuei 2004). From research carried out in Egypt among urban populations, it was estimated that about 88 percent of the Somali sample (264 out of 300 households) receive remittances amounting to over $5°0,000. In comparison, 35percent of Sudanese households (94 out of 270) receive about $170,000 from their family members and friends who have either been resettled or immigrated abroad (Al-Sharmani 2004; Grabska 2005b). Hence, refugees can be seen as actively contributing to the local economy in the rental market and the consumer sector (mainly food).

Often, as our informants explained, the expectations placed on refugees resettled abroad are so high that many disconnect their phones and change residence in order not to receive constant requests for help. For Sudanese, the western world represents a paradise, offering jobs, a good standard of living, education, and freedom. Yet, upon arrival, many refugees realize the difficult economic conditions they face there and their inability to support financially all those left behind. If they do not send remittances to their extended family in Egypt, they are castigated for abandoning Sudanese morals and traditions (Riak Akuei 2004). Assisting family and friends is seen by Sudanese as a moral and societal obligation. The importance of remittances in the lives of Sudanese refugees in Arba‘ wa Nuss and elsewhere in Cairo is highlighted by the fact that rising numbers of Western Union offices have opened next to churches and institutions frequented by Sudanese refugees.

Apart from remittances, transnational support is offered through sponsorships for migrating to Australia. Those who have migrated or were resettled to Australia usually promise to send sponsorship forms to their families and friends in Cairo. The private sponsorship program is a window of opportunity to migrate out of Cairo open to all Sudanese—those with legal refugee status, as well as asylum seekers, rejected applicants, and those recognized but denied resettlement. Although rejected by UNHCR for refugee status, Justo has already submitted three applications for private sponsorship to Australia. He has been rejected twice and now is waiting for a response to his wife's submission. As in the case of Somali refugees, Sudanese maintain these transnational links with their families, relatives, and friends through telephone calls, Internet chat rooms, and e-mails, They also keep a close eye on political developments in Sudan and weigh carefully the possibilities of their returning to their country of origin.

(p.480) Clan and Ethnic Dimensions of Refugee Experience

Clan affiliations, in the case of Somali refugees, and ethnic affiliations, in the case of Sudanese, continue to be relevant to the financial strategies refugees adopt. For example, refugees make claims on their clan or tribe members when they are in need of financial assistance or temporary housing. However, it is also common for Sudanese refugees to share housing with members of different tribal groups and from different regions of the country. For Somalis, clan identities become more pronounced when refugees attempt to organize themselves as a community to communicate with UNHCR about their needs and concerns. Yet, even during times of conflict among Somali refugees, clanism has never been the sole factor of formation of communities (and refugee associations). Collective identities have been formed and differentiated by other equally significant factors, such as length of residence in Cairo, sharing residential areas, and feelings of friendship and solidarity established in previous host societies. In fact, these diasporic affiliations are an important support system for refugees. For example, Habiba and Deeqo were neighbors in Libya. Deeqo says that the old relationship she has with Habiba makes them close and able to trust and rely on one another even though they are from different subclans. This is true of many Somali refugees, who not only share apartments with former neighbors and friends met in previous host societies but also borrow from them during periods of economic hardship.

In some instances, diasporic affiliations forged from common experiences in previous host societies have been significant enough to mitigate clan divisions. In late 2003, for example, divisions among the Somali refugees in Ard al-Liwa', as well as in other neighborhoods, resulted from different clan-based efforts to organize the refugees and advocate on their behalf to UNHCR. When an old refugee organization was disintegrating and a new one was forming after demonstrations in front of the UNHCR office in late September 2003, clan solidarities became more prominent and divided the community. At one point, when one of the members of the old organization was accused of being “un-Somali” and sabotaging the efforts of the new group because of clan affiliations,

African Refugees and Diasporic Struggles in Cairo

A refugee's request for asylum in Australia left behind after the sit-in's sudden demise (photograph by Themba Lewis).

(p.481) members of the new organization who had known and befriended the accused in a previous host society defended him and vouched for his integrity and patriotism. Diasporic affiliations sometimes determine the physical space that people occupy. Because of networking among refugees who were neighbors and friends in previous host societies, refugees reproduce these same circles of friends and neighbors in Cairo. Enclaves of Somalis from Libya or Saudi Arabia become visible, as they share apartments or buildings in Ard al-Liwa' and in Nasr City (the other main neighborhood where more affluent Somalis live in large numbers).

For Sudanese refugees, both the region of origin within Sudan and ethnic group playa role in daily survival and planning for the future. With limited external assistance available, Sudanese refugees resort to pooling resources within the family network or the wider ethnic community (Fabos 1999; Riak Akuei 2004; Grabska 2005b). Traditions and strong connections to their communities allow Sudanese access to informal assistance on both an ad hoc and a more organized basis. The borrowing of money from family and friends is common; however, more interesting practices have developed between different ethnic groups. In some ethnic communities (Bari and Dinka), a system of rotating lending arrangements has been established, whereby each member contributes LES per month to a common budget. In the case of emergency, such as death, sickness, eviction from a flat, marriage, divorce, and financial difficulty, the pooled money is given by chiefs to those in need.

Sudanese refugees, especially those from the south, tend to associate themselves with their ethnic background, where kinship plays a determining role. In exile, they cultivate and maintain tribal relations by publicly maintaining and honoring traditional community norms. The majority of the Sudanese ethnic groups represented in Egypt have established associations (Dinka Group, Bari Community, Fur Association, Nuba Mountains Association, just to name a few) and recreated their traditional tribal justice system, whereby disputes are settled according to ethnic norms and codes of conduct. Participating in the ethnic communities allows refugees to access their culture, practice their traditions, and support each other morally, culturally, psychologically, and financially. In addition, for those displaced populations that underwent a cultural and societal rupture in Sudan and had to leave their places of origin, recreating a common system of interaction and community life introduces some level of stability in their lives. Their desire to maintain their culture, however, is often accompanied by a lack of interest in understanding or adopting local conditions and norms. Common complaints from Egyptian neighbors and landlords, which often result in evictions, relate to frequent visiting by family and friends, which are only typical norms of (p.482) Sudanese socializing. In Egypt, although family visits are common, they neither happen on a daily basis nor involve a vast extended network of friends and relatives. Egyptians often become annoyed by such late-night socializing. Conflicts between the two communities erupt without either of them making the effort to change their behavior or understand the other side.

Some more traditional forms of socializing undergo transformation in exile. Although marriages, funerals, and departures are still celebrated, they take a very different shape in comparison to those in Sudan. As a result of their financial struggles and long working hours, many Sudanese are unable to celebrate and participate in community rituals as they would have in Sudan. In addition, forms of personal interaction and patterns of support change in exile. Although still practiced in the host country, solidarity, which characterizes traditional Sudanese community relations, especially among the tribes in the south (Dinka, Bari, and Kuku), is less intense and pervasive. In many ways, the process of transit to Cairo has transformed the ways people interact in their own communities (Le Houérou 2004).

Religious differences between predominantly Christian southern Sudanese and the predominantly Muslim host society set the two groups further apart. These cultural, religious, linguistic, and racial differences have a strong impact on the possibilities of coexistence of the two groups. Internal religious differences between Muslim and Christian Sudanese refugees also are sometimes problematic, as southern Christians often mistrust the rest of the Sudanese refugee population. These ethnic and religious differences brought from Sudan are reproduced in Egypt, which results in segregation within the Sudanese community and, to a certain extent, affects the position of the Sudanese and their interaction with Egyptian society.

Locality and Territoriality of Refugee Experience

Another layer of identity that has become particularly significant for Somali refugees in Ard al-Liwa', as well as Sudanese in Arba‘ wa Nuss, is that based on sharing a distinct physical locale in Cairo. That is, the proximity of the crowded apartment buildings in the narrow alleys of the neighborhood creates a distinct physical reality. Many Somali men make use of coffee shops in the neighborhood to socialize every night. The presence of these open coffee shops, in which customers have access to one another as well as to passers-by on the street, creates a Somali space, strengthening the sense of familiarity and closeness that Somalis in Ard al-Liwa' feel toward one another. This sense of a community, enhanced by the physical setting, is a source of pride. For example, refugees from Ard al-Liwa' often complain that the more dispersed (p.483) Middle-class refugees from Nasr City with whom they may work lack a sense of community and organization. In fact, refugees in Ard al-Liwa' boast of their collective efforts as a community to meet the needs of refugees, such as sponsoring Somali-run computer and language classes in the area.

The experience of Sudanese refugees in Arba‘ wa Nuss is marked by a similar development. Over time, despite their foreignness, the Sudanese have created a distinctive neighborhood. Despite the psychological denial of adaptation and settlement, Sudanese newcomers have become the dominant group in certain areas in Arba‘ wa Nuss. If one takes a stroll along the unpaved roads of the area, a strikingly clear delimitation of territorial space between the hosts and their guests emerges, with the Sudanese households clustered around churches. The growing confidence of the Sudanese community in the area has led to the establishment of community-based organizations that serve the displaced migrants, including the South Sudanese Development Initiative and the Bari Association. Through such organizations, the community is asserting its voice and creating its territorial and spatial presence, even if transitory.

Religious institutions also have been important to refugee community building. Nearby churches and church-based education attract more and more Sudanese Christians to settle in the neighbourhood. In this area, rents tend to be higher than usual because Egyptian landlords are aware that Sudanese Christians are willing to pay higher rents in order to be accommodated in the vicinity of churches. Slowly, a more segmented map of the area emerges, with Sudanese households clustered around church facilities, Coptic Egyptians living near the Coptic church, and the rest of the neighborhood scattered further away from the Hamza hill. The delimitation of living space is linked to the presence of churches, services, religion, and nationality. Sudanese from the area refer to themselves as those from Arba‘ wa Nuss, and clearly differentiate themselves from others who do not belong here. Consequently, refugees could be perceived as a dynamic force in terms of creating special cultural networks, even in transit.

Conclusion: Diasporic Refugees in Cosmopolitan Urbanity

The Somali refugees in Ard al-Liwa‘ and the Sudanese refugees in Arba‘ wa Nuss are diasporic groups in which individuals and families live their daily lives, make choices, and negotiate multiple identity claims in ways that are shaped not only by the civil war in their homelands but also by their evolving transnational experiences as diasporic refugees. However, when it comes to their strategies, there is much heterogeneity. In their daily lives in Cairo, Sudanese and Somali refugees live as distinct ethnic communities that are (p.484) concentrated in particular residential areas and make use of community-based support systems. Being ‘foreigners’ and legally and economically vulnerable, both refugee groups encounter many challenges in securing their livelihoods and perceive their life in the city as transitory rather than as the beginning of a new life and future in diaspora. Notwithstanding the different kinds of marginalization that the refugees suffer, Sudanese and Somali refugees engage in individual and collective efforts to create their own spaces.

In short, Egypt, with its rigid citizenship laws and its public discourse of exclusionary nationalism and its simultaneous commitment to the protection of refugees and the cosmopolitan daily realities of its urban spaces, seems to be a host society that is both closed and open to refugees. The world of refugees, such as Sudanese and Somali refugees, in Cairo is one with multilayered challenges, as well as one with a fluidity that allows the refugees to form new kinds of transnational family and community life. Yet, the December 2005 tragedy is a reminder of the hegemonic power of the state, which is willing to tolerate difference only as a transitory phenomenon. When confronted with mobilized efforts to protest and criticize living conditions and the state's con straints on rights and freedoms, the Egyptian government is ready and able to intervene and control the limits of difference.

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United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 2003a. “Refugee Self-reliance in Cairo: Obstacles and Prospects,” Survey Report. Cairo: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

———. 2003b. “Information Booklet for Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Egypt.” Cairo: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

———2004. “Statistical Report on Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Egypt.” Cairo: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Notes

(1) Their situation in Egypt has been documented in research undertaken under the auspices of the Forced Migration and Refugee Studies (FMRS) program at the American University in Cairo by Oroub el-Abed (2003). This research analyzes the legal, economic, and social conditions of Palestinian refugees and examines the daily strategies they use to secure employment, housing, healthcare, and educational services

(2) This chapter is based on fieldwork conducted by the authors between 2002 and 2005. Although it includes some more current developments in the refugee situation in Egypt, it predominantly covers the situation of urban refugees during the time of the fieldwork.

(3) Over the last decade, the war has evolved from a largely North-South conflict into a contest for power that involves groups from across the nation and political spectrum (lCG 2002). Since the coup that brought the National Islamic Front to power in 1989, political and military organizations from all parts of Sudan—North, East, and West-joined southern groups in armed and unarmed opposition to the government (ICG 2002; Grabska 2005b).

(p.487)

(4) Egyptian government sources usually quote a number between three and four million, with Sudanese opposition groups indicating 2.2 million. According to UNHCR sources, at the end of 2004, there were about eighteen thousand Sudanese with official refugee status. It is estimated that since 1995, around 150,000 Sudanese applied for asylum in Egypt (UNHCR 2004).

(5) The five reservations made to the convention concern personal status (Article 12(1)), rationing (Article 20), access to primary education (Article 22(1)), access to public relief and assistance (Article 22), and labor legislation and social security (Article 24).

(6) In 2004, the UNHCR Cairo office and the Egyptian government reached an agreement by which children of refugees are legally allowed to enroll in public schools. This policy has yet to be implemented because of the lack of coordination between policy maker s and educational institutions. In addition, many Sudanese and Somali refugees are reluctant to enroll their children in public schools where they will encounter the problem of poor education and stand out as ‘foreigners’ in classrooms crammed with Egyptian children. Some refugees also feel that such schools do not prep are their children for life in the west. Refugees, like all foreigner s residing in Egypt, continue to be ineligible for free university education.

(7) According to UNHCR statistics, between 1994 and the end of 2005, of the total of 58,535 Sudanese nationals who sought asylum and registered wit h the agency, sixteen thousand were rejected and eventually became ‘closed files,’ and another 10,200 were given temporary asylum-seeker protection (FMRS 2006).

(8) The right to Egyptian citizenship until 2004 was acquired only through a male parent or through marriage to a male spouse. In 2004, the citizenship laws were amended and the children of Egyptian women and non-Egyptian men are now eligible for citizenship status. This amendment in the law does not apply to Palestinians, however, who tend to intermarry with Egyptians. One of the reasons the Egyptian government is not willing to grant citizenship to Palestinian s is based in debates on the right to return to Palestine. The policy of not granting citizenship to Palestinians has a direct influence on the policies affecting all refugees in Egypt. Further more, the new law is not helpful to the majority of Sudanese and Somali refugees, who tend to marry within their own communities.

(9) The embassies of Australia and Canada run so-called private sponsorship or family reunification resettlement programs. The Australian embassy accepts applications from those who want to migrate on so-called ‘humanitarian grounds.’ In comparison to the government-sponsored resettlement program for UNHCR-recognized refugees, a private sponsorship program requires that an applicant have a family member, friend, or institutional sponsor in Australia who will be responsible for the cost of flight and hosting the applicant upon a humanitarian visa being granted. The Canadian family reunification program is mainly targeted at those who already have family members in Canada.

(10) Several studies focusing on the situation of urban refugees in the South deserve to be mentioned: research by Gaim Kibreab (1995; 1996) on the situation of Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees in the Sudan; a study by Michela Macchiavello (2003) on young refugees in Kampala; a project carried out by the University of (p.488) Witwatersrand on the situation of refugees in Johannesburg, South Africa (Landau 2006); and a study of urban refugees in Nairobi, Kenya (Campbell 2006.

(11) During British rule and the ‘Condominium’ period, Egypt and Sudan were considered one. Hence, Egyptians often refer to Sudanese as their (poor) brothers.

(12) The Coptic churches in general tend to serve both Egyptian and Sudanese Christians, whereas Catholic churches tend to have separate programs for the two communities. In Arba‘wa Nuss, tensions between Sudanese and Egyptians exist across religious lines, with color, race, and nationality being the main diving points. (p.489)

Notes:

(1) Their situation in Egypt has been documented in research undertaken under the auspices of the Forced Migration and Refugee Studies (FMRS) program at the American University in Cairo by Oroub el-Abed (2003). This research analyzes the legal, economic, and social conditions of Palestinian refugees and examines the daily strategies they use to secure employment, housing, healthcare, and educational services

(2) This chapter is based on fieldwork conducted by the authors between 2002 and 2005. Although it includes some more current developments in the refugee situation in Egypt, it predominantly covers the situation of urban refugees during the time of the fieldwork.

(3) Over the last decade, the war has evolved from a largely North-South conflict into a contest for power that involves groups from across the nation and political spectrum (lCG 2002). Since the coup that brought the National Islamic Front to power in 1989, political and military organizations from all parts of Sudan—North, East, and West-joined southern groups in armed and unarmed opposition to the government (ICG 2002; Grabska 2005b).

(4) Egyptian government sources usually quote a number between three and four million, with Sudanese opposition groups indicating 2.2 million. According to UNHCR sources, at the end of 2004, there were about eighteen thousand Sudanese with official refugee status. It is estimated that since 1995, around 150,000 Sudanese applied for asylum in Egypt (UNHCR 2004).

(5) The five reservations made to the convention concern personal status (Article 12(1)), rationing (Article 20), access to primary education (Article 22(1)), access to public relief and assistance (Article 22), and labor legislation and social security (Article 24).

(6) In 2004, the UNHCR Cairo office and the Egyptian government reached an agreement by which children of refugees are legally allowed to enroll in public schools. This policy has yet to be implemented because of the lack of coordination between policy maker s and educational institutions. In addition, many Sudanese and Somali refugees are reluctant to enroll their children in public schools where they will encounter the problem of poor education and stand out as ‘foreigners’ in classrooms crammed with Egyptian children. Some refugees also feel that such schools do not prep are their children for life in the west. Refugees, like all foreigner s residing in Egypt, continue to be ineligible for free university education.

(7) According to UNHCR statistics, between 1994 and the end of 2005, of the total of 58,535 Sudanese nationals who sought asylum and registered wit h the agency, sixteen thousand were rejected and eventually became ‘closed files,’ and another 10,200 were given temporary asylum-seeker protection (FMRS 2006).

(8) The right to Egyptian citizenship until 2004 was acquired only through a male parent or through marriage to a male spouse. In 2004, the citizenship laws were amended and the children of Egyptian women and non-Egyptian men are now eligible for citizenship status. This amendment in the law does not apply to Palestinians, however, who tend to intermarry with Egyptians. One of the reasons the Egyptian government is not willing to grant citizenship to Palestinian s is based in debates on the right to return to Palestine. The policy of not granting citizenship to Palestinians has a direct influence on the policies affecting all refugees in Egypt. Further more, the new law is not helpful to the majority of Sudanese and Somali refugees, who tend to marry within their own communities.

(9) The embassies of Australia and Canada run so-called private sponsorship or family reunification resettlement programs. The Australian embassy accepts applications from those who want to migrate on so-called ‘humanitarian grounds.’ In comparison to the government-sponsored resettlement program for UNHCR-recognized refugees, a private sponsorship program requires that an applicant have a family member, friend, or institutional sponsor in Australia who will be responsible for the cost of flight and hosting the applicant upon a humanitarian visa being granted. The Canadian family reunification program is mainly targeted at those who already have family members in Canada.

(10) Several studies focusing on the situation of urban refugees in the South deserve to be mentioned: research by Gaim Kibreab (1995; 1996) on the situation of Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees in the Sudan; a study by Michela Macchiavello (2003) on young refugees in Kampala; a project carried out by the University of (p.488) Witwatersrand on the situation of refugees in Johannesburg, South Africa (Landau 2006); and a study of urban refugees in Nairobi, Kenya (Campbell 2006.

(11) During British rule and the ‘Condominium’ period, Egypt and Sudan were considered one. Hence, Egyptians often refer to Sudanese as their (poor) brothers.

(12) The Coptic churches in general tend to serve both Egyptian and Sudanese Christians, whereas Catholic churches tend to have separate programs for the two communities. In Arba‘wa Nuss, tensions between Sudanese and Egyptians exist across religious lines, with color, race, and nationality being the main diving points. (p.489)