November 12, 2008

IV. Reasons for the Journey

My choice was to stay in Cairo, go through Libya [to Europe] and maybe die at sea, or go to Israel and die by a bullet. I preferred to die by a bullet.
-J.B., a Darfuri man who was arrested by Egyptian border police

Both Egyptian and Israeli officials describe the majority of those crossing the Sinai border as "economic migrants," a term used by governments to refer to people seeking better opportunities, as opposed to "refugees" fleeing from persecution or danger. Rana'an Dinur, the director-general of the Prime Minister's Office in Israel, has been tasked with overseeing the government's policy regarding the new arrivals. He explained in an email to Human Rights Watch,

Not everyone who arrives in Israel through the Egyptian border is a refugee, and certainly not Sudanese. Over the past 18 months, we have been witness to a significant increase in the phenomenon of infiltration to Israel through the Egyptian border, when only a minority of those who cross into Israel are refugees from Sudan. The overwhelming majority are Sudanese, Eritrean[s] and other Africans who have infiltrated in search of employment. There are also quite a few who already received refugee status in other countries, but who heard of the conditions in Israel, and therefore decided to come here.[21]

Israel is the wealthiest country in the region. The UN's Human Development Index for 2007-08 ranks Israel as the 23rd most developed country in the world; Egypt stands at 112th place. Sudan, Eritrea, and the countries bordering them are still more impoverished.[22]

Yet the category of economic migration does not fully explain this new population flow. Human Rights Watch spoke to individuals from various national groups, who described reasons for risking the journey to Israel that cannot be reduced simply to "economic migration." Many Southern Sudanese and some Darfuris have lived for years in Egypt, and asylum seekers and refugees from these groups told us they had decided to go to Israel because they felt trapped in Egypt, and found it difficult to survive.  Egypt made reservations upon acceding to the Refugee Convention that limit its obligations in various areas including equal access to protection under labor laws, thereby denying the right to work,[23] although under its human rights treaty obligations Egypt is obliged to provide the right to work and an adequate standard of living, as well as to the highest attainable standard of health.[24] Migrants and refugees in Egypt also complain of pervasive racism and official violence.

Sudanese Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Human Rights Watch spoke with Southern Sudanese and Darfuris who vividly remembered brutal experiences in Sudan. A 33-year-old man now living in Tel Aviv recalled,

I left El Ginena [West Darfur] in 2003, in April, the last of the month. Because the Janjaweed attacked my village, Arwalla. They raped women, and they killed the eldest and the kids and they threw them in the fire. I saw. I saw my parents, my mother, father, brother, and sister being killed and they burned our houses. And I saw them rape women. This happened to me. I was alone when I left, none of my family made it.[25]

In the vast majority of cases, Sudanese people interviewed for this report originally fled their homeland for Egypt, where UNHCR recognized them as refugees or registered them as asylum seekers.

Security problems in Egypt

Many Sudanese asylum seekers and refugees told Human Rights Watch that serious and unresolved security issues in Egypt lay behind their decision to go to Israel.

In late September 2005, Sudanese asylum seekers and refugees began a sit-in demonstration in Mustafa Mahmoud Park, outside UNHCR's Cairo offices, which grew to include roughly 2,000 people and lasted for three months.[26] The protestors presented a list of demands to UNHCR-some of which reflected grievances not within UNHCR's control, including increases in living allowances and in rates of resettlement to third countries. On December 30 at least 27 Sudanese were killed and hundreds more were arrested when Egyptian police violently dispersed the demonstration. At least two of the organizers of the demonstration were still being detained in Qanatir prison outside Cairo in June 2008, two-and-a-half years after the events.[27]

When Human Rights Watch asked them about life in Egypt, Sudanese asylum seekers and refugees almost uniformly referred to the Egyptian police crackdown at Mustafa Mahmoud. Some cited it as the primary reason they left for Israel.[28] Others said they continue to feel its effects: One refugee who played a role in the demonstrations said police detained him for three days in April 2007. "They told me they recognized me from when I spoke to international media during the demonstration," he said, adding that a state security officer threatened to "cut my tongue" when they learned that he planned to organize a ceremony in December 2007 commemorating those who died in Mustafa Mahmoud Park.[29] A Southern Sudanese community leader in Cairo said his community "has orphans from Mustafa Mahmoud and no one can take care of them. Others had their children killed. The Egyptian government needs to ensure accountability for Mustafa Mahmoud, either through jail terms for those responsible or [by] compensating victims and their families."[30]

Such an outcome appears unlikely. A flawed and superficial internal police investigation concluded in May 2006 that there had been no wrongdoing on the part of the police.[31] "My uncle Amoko died there," a young Southern Sudanese man said. "To read the death certificate is very strange. It said he had lung cancer or heart trouble. But he was healthy before he died."[32] A senior official in Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who spoke on condition of anonymity, seemed to sum up the official attitude when he told Human Rights Watch,

I have copies of police reports of harassment and drunkenness [by the demonstrators]. I don't recall one bullet being shot, just water cannons. They [police] issued warnings and followed procedures. And they used the cannons for short periods. There were mistakes made, and one life lost is one too many. But I looked at all the coroner's reports, and all but one death was the result of trampling. I have concerns about one death, but not the rest.[33]

A majority of the Sudanese whom Human Rights Watch interviewed, in Egypt and Israel alike, added that a significant factor in their decision to flee to Israel (or their plans to do so) was their belief that UNHCR's regional office had collaborated with the government in the forced removals from Mustafa Mahmoud Park, and could not be trusted to protect them in future. In an untitled document, dated October 25 2005, UNHCR Cairo sought to debunk this perception:

Rumour: UNHCR has requested the Egyptian authorities to diffuse the demonstration by force. False. From the outset, UNHCR has appealed to the authorities for a peaceful resolution to the situation. The authorities will decide to take the necessary action in accordance with their standard operating procedures for law enforcement and UNHCR will have little power to influence their actions.[34]

According to an eyewitness cited in an American University in Cairo report on the demonstrations, a UNHCR representative told refugees gathered in the park on December 19, 2005,

You will have casualties, not only in terms of physical suffering but also in terms of the legal implications. And we cannot be held responsible for the casualties or the failure to meet the legal requirements. And the reason I say this is because UNHCR has … done everything that is required of us, but you are not willing to vacate this park.[35]

UNHCR informed Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs that it could do no more to resolve the situation in the park in a letter dated December 22, 2005.[36]   As of October 15, 2008, UNHCR Egypt had not responded to Human Rights Watch requests for further information on the demonstration.[37]

The number of Sudanese fleeing to Israel increased in the months immediately after the events in Mustafa Mahmoud Park, and continued to grow. In 2005, before the events, 56 Sudanese had entered Israel; 270 more entered in 2006.[38]

Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers said they also faced more generalized security problems in Egypt. Several Sudanese said that while living in Cairo they had been detained and tortured for their affiliations with Southern Sudanese or Darfuri groups. A leader of a Fur dance troupe in Cairo said Egyptian police arrested him before his troupe was scheduled to perform on July 15, 2007, and detained him for three days without charge. "I [had been living] in Egypt for nearly four years, in Cairo. I collected iron from the garbage and I sold it," he said, explaining that he sometimes went hungry, but that it was his experience in jail that made him decide to flee for Israel. "Jail was it. They would hit me in the chest and back and beat the soles of my feet with short sticks. It was difficult to leave Egypt-we knew the Egyptians might shoot us, but we decided to leave."[39]

A 26-year-old Southern Sudanese man, now living in Tel Aviv, said he was detained and beaten three times between 2004 and 2006 by Cairo police, apparently because of his relationship to the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) office in Cairo, where he formed an organization of Dinka youth whose relatives had been killed in the Sudanese civil war. Like several other Sudanese asylum seekers Human Rights Watch spoke with, he believes the Sudanese embassy in Egypt played a role in his repeated detentions in Cairo. "One time, the police pulled out my left thumbnail," he said, "and the last time they beat me really badly. I was bleeding from my tongue, and my lower back and my arm still hurt. There was no help from the UN[HCR]; they told me to tell the police."[40]

Victimization by police can occur absent any political connotation: In one particularly egregious case recounted to Human Rights Watch by a Cairo lawyer representing the victim, two police officers orally raped a Sudanese woman. Although the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced one of the officers to 25 years in prison, he is still at large, according to the lawyer.[41]

Many Sudanese said that attitudes among ordinary Egyptians were racist and frequently spilled over into violence. Egyptian police, they said, were reluctant to protect them. "[People] would hit me, calling me a black, and throw things and dirty water from their balconies," a young Southern Sudanese man said. "Sometimes they would surround me and threaten me with a knife and steal everything from me. The policemen could see this and they wouldn't do anything. If I found a policeman [he] would be cursing me. That's why I left."[42]

Many Sudanese asylum seekers told similar stories. Several said that Egyptian police had refused to protect them from violent attacks or to investigate attacks brought to their attention. One said, "I went out of my work one day, and an Egyptian man began insulting me, and he beat me. A policeman was watching. I asked for help, and he asked me what I was doing in Egypt."[43]

Lack of durable solutions

UNHCR identifies three "durable solutions" for refugees: voluntary repatriation to their home country, local integration in their host country, and resettlement to a third country.[44]Many Sudanese asylum seekers and refugees told Human Rights Watch they had made or were considering the journey to Israel because none of these options were available to them: they felt trapped in an unlivable situation in Egypt, where they were unable to work; had no avenues to resettlement to a third country; and could not risk returning home.

All of the Sudanese whom Human Rights Watch interviewed in Egypt said that UNHCR Egypt had registered them as asylum seekers and recognized some as refugees. While being registered as asylum seekers generally protected them from deportation, it did not, in their view, allow them to enjoy the rights of a recognized refugee or provide adequate support for their livelihoods. In April 2008 Egyptian authorities deported 49 Southern Sudanese, including recognized refugees and asylum seekers, to Sudan. Some of the men were rounded up by police after Sudanese youth gangs in Cairo damaged cars during a fight; others were deported directly from prison.  They were detained for four months by Government of South Sudan authorities in Juba before being released in July.[45]

Obstacles to local integration

Integration in Egypt is extremely difficult. The right to work, to an education, to medical care, and to public assistance, are aspects of local integration, and these rights must be given substance for integration to be effective.[46] Although Egyptian authorities no longer stamp "not authorized to work" in passports of Sudanese asylum seekers, as they used to, it is practically impossible for poor non-Egyptians to find work in the formal economy due to quotas and other requirements.[47] Refugees can join the millions of Egyptians who work in the informal economy.[48]  However, non-citizens have limited rights of redress if they are harmed or exploited in the workplace.As a refugee aid lawyer remarked,


Egyptians who work informally and don't get paid can take their claims to one of the Ministry of Labor's special courts. Under the labor law, if you can prove the work relationship by any means, even two witnesses, you can get help. The refugees can't go to court to claim their rights if they're abused. Or they won't, because they fear what will happen.[49]

Even well-educated refugees and asylum seekers find it difficult to work. An asylum seeker, originally from Darfur, who had run a law office in Khartoum for 10 years, said,

I went to the [Egyptian] lawyers' syndicate to ask for a work permit, but they said they couldn't help. I had to work as a security guard for three months. My boss was very kind with me, but suddenly he died. The other Egyptians who worked with us hated me, and they started transferring me around. Now, I am not working.[50]

Refugees and asylum seekers unable to find work in the informal economy face dire conditions. Due to budget limitations, UNHCR-provided living assistance to asylum seekers and refugees in Egypt covers only 20 to 30 percent of basic needs. UNHCR also provides one-time emergency grants.[51]

The Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers Human Rights Watch interviewed in Egypt and Israel also complained about the difficulty of accessing health care and enrolling their children or themselves in school. UNHCR provides, through its implementing partners Caritas and Catholic Relief Services (CRS), assistance to refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt in need of medical treatment and in order to offset the cost of school tuition, respectively.[52] Many Sudanese complained that these programs were inadequate for their needs. A Sudanese community leader in Cairo told Human Rights Watch,

We know of 60 kids afflicted by rickets, and they get no treatment. Some of them can't even stand up to go to the bathroom alone. If you go to the UN[HCR] because you're sick they say, "Go to the hospital, then come to us with the receipt and we'll refund part of it." We can't afford that. They need to pay it up front.[53]

The UNHCR Egypt spokesperson noted that over 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt received healthcare assistance during 2007, but acknowledged that UNHCR's funding was inadequate to meet some refugees' needs.[54]

Radwa Robie, of CRS, noted that her organization's educational grants, like Caritas' healthcare grants, are offered as reimbursements rather than as advances; in many cases, she said, qualifying asylum seekers and refugees must choose between paying for school and paying several months' worth of rent. Those whom UNHCR registers as asylum seekers or recognizes as refugees after the beginning of the school year are forced to wait until the following year to enroll in the grant program. And while the grants pay the tuition of schools run by refugee communities, the Egyptian school system does not recognize these schools' diplomas.[55]

Resettlement opportunities curtailed

The lack of social and economic integration in Egypt is not new and does not, by itself, account for the recent surge of migration from Egypt to Israel. A factor that has changed is the availability of resettlement to third countries. The number of Sudanese resettled from Egypt with UNHCR's assistance has declined sharply since 2005. Western "resettlement countries," which informally notify UNHCR Egypt of their quotas and criteria and make the final decision on whether to accept a refugee for resettlement, have shown decreasing interest in resettling Sudanese refugees from Cairo after the January 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the Khartoum government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement/Army. The leading resettlement country, the United States, resettled 2,759 Sudanese from Cairo in 2004, 1,540 in 2005, 1,088 in 2006, and 312 in 2007.[56]

Behind the drop in availability of resettlement is a well-intentioned but flawed change of approach by UNCHR. Normally, when an individual approaches UNHCR, she is first registered as an asylum seeker and later has her asylum claim thoroughly adjudicated. If she is found to have a valid claim she is recognized as a refugee and may then be eligible for resettlement. In June 2004, after the May 26 ceasefire between the government of Sudan and the SPLM/SPLA, UNHCR Egypt ceased conducting refugee status determination for all Sudanese asylum seekers, a decision subsequently renewed every six months.[57] Whereas recognized refugees received "blue cards," UNHCR began providing all Sudanese-including Darfuris-with "yellow cards" to designate them as asylum seekers.[58] By thus granting Sudanese temporary protection, UNHCR sought to give them a modicum of protection against arrest, detention, and deportation. If UNHCR had continued to process their cases, it would probably have found many not to qualify as refugees due to a fundamental change of circumstances in Southern Sudan. It would have closed their cases, and they would be subject to immigration enforcement in Egypt. UNHCR's policy thus protected persons from Southern Sudan against deportation. However, it does not afford Darfuris the refugee status-and the possibility of being referred for resettlement to a third country-that their cases might merit if UNHCR were to adjudicate their claims.

Today, UNHCR Egypt conducts full refugee status determination only for individuals identified by a "needs-based" assessment that begins during their initial registration or through referrals. According to the UNHCR Egypt spokesperson,

Through registration, we continue to screen people for resettlement according to needs-based criteria. These are female headed households, women at risk, people with life-threatening illnesses not treatable in Egypt, or individualized protection problems in Egypt. So both Darfuris and South Sudanese can get resettled if they're identified through the registration process. If they're screened this way they receive individual RSD [Refugee Status Determination] in order to be resettled.[59]

Despite requests for clarification, Human Rights Watch was unable to determine why UNHCR does not "freeze" Southern Sudanese at the asylum seeker level while still granting refugee status to Darfuris.[60] In practice, only a small number of Darfuris or other Sudanese receive full refugee status after being identified through the needs-based assessment procedure.

Repatriation not an option

UNHCR provides small cash grants to assist in the voluntary repatriation of asylum seekers and refugees in Cairo who originate from Southern Sudan. In 2007 UNHCR assisted in the voluntary repatriation of more than 1,645 Sudanese from Egypt.[61] A UNHCR Egypt official told Human Rights Watch that UNHCR hopes to train voluntary returnees to match job opportunities available in southern Sudan.[62] But several Sudanese in Cairo, citing relatives living in Southern Sudan, said the situation there remains too volatile and dangerous to risk returning.[63]Others said they would consider repatriation but that UNHCR's repatriation assistance grant was inadequate to pay for the journey home, let alone the cost of starting their lives anew.

*          *          *

A southern Sudanese community leader in Cairo summed up the reasons people in his community were leaving for Israel.

We don't have the right to be in Egypt and work or to live decently, and if we went back [to Southern Sudan] we don't know what we'd find; everything that we had there was destroyed. The UN says that Southern Sudan is now at peace and they won't take us [for resettlement]. But there is no infrastructure there, there are still landmines and militias fighting, and rebel movements. There is no way for the government in Southern Sudan to protect anyone who returns. And we can't go to other Arab countries. This is why people are going to Israel. If America or Canada or Australia were next door we'd go there. But Israel is it.[64]

Horn of Africa Refugees and Asylum seekers

Unlike the Sudanese who undertook the journey to Israel, the majority of Eritreans spent relatively little time in Egypt and do not apply for asylum there.[65]

Eritreans fleeing to Egypt and then to Israel tend to base their subsequent refugee claims on their having evaded the draft for potentially endless and difficult military service, for which the consequence if caught may be mistreatment, torture or execution, or on having experienced persecution as members of an unrecognized religious minority, such as Pentecostals or Seventh Day Adventists.[66] Eritreans who apply for asylum in Egypt or Israel might also have sur place refugee claims that originate due to the act of leaving their country of origin.[67] In addition, the Eritrean government regards Eritreans who apply for asylum elsewhere as traitors; they face the risk of detention and torture if returned.[68]

Eritreans in Israel and Egypt told Human Rights Watch that they must cross each border on their journey clandestinely. While in Sudan they faced the risk of deportation back to Eritrea.[69] One Eritrean detained while attempting to travel through Egypt to Israel told Human Rights Watch,

I left Eritrea because the authorities wanted to imprison me and my husband on account of our faith. My husband was smuggled to Sudan, then I was smuggled afterwards. It cost US$3000. But I had heard that the Sudanese government wanted to detain people like us and send them back to Eritrea. I stayed in Khartoum for less than a month, because of this problem. Then I was smuggled to Egypt, for around $800.[70]

(Egypt's deportation of Eritreans en masse is described in Chapter VI.)

From Sudan, some Eritrean migrants crossed on foot into Egypt, traveling at night.[71] Once in Egypt, Eritrean migrants generally attempt to travel to Cairo, where the majority may spend a few days or weeks, in many cases without applying for asylum with UNHCR, before paying middlemen and smugglers to take them to the Sinai border.

Ethiopian refugees reported similar circumstances in Egypt to Eritreans, although Human Rights Watch is not aware of recent cases where Egypt forcibly deported Ethiopians to their home country. Ethiopian migrants told Human Rights Watch that they also had to be smuggled through Sudan into Egypt, and had made or were considering the journey to Israel because their community suffers similar problems to those described to us by Sudanese migrants.[72]

[21] Email to Human Rights Watch from Hillel Freeman on behalf of Rana'an Dinur, director-general of the Israeli Prime Minister's Office, March 9, 2008. The message continued, "It is important to note that, even in the Israel Prison Service (IPS) facilities, the infiltrators "enjoy" a bed and warm meals, which they almost certainly did not receive in their countries of origin or in Egypt." Dinur's characterization of these "economic migrants" as "infiltrators," a term derived from an Israeli law intended to prevent threats to national security, is discussed in section VII, below. 

[22] By the same measure, which takes many indices of development into account, Sudan is ranked 147; Eritrea, 157; and Ethiopia, 169. In terms of neighboring countries, Chad ranks 160. The IMF's 2007 rankings of countries by the single criterion of per capita GDP tell a similar story. Israel was the world's 31st richest country; Egypt was the 115th.

[23]Egypt reserved with regard to articles 12(1) (personal status), 20 (rationing), 22(1) (access to primary education), 23 (public relief and assistance), and 24 (labor legislation and social security).

[24] ICESCR, arts. 6 (right to work), 9 (right to social security), 11 (right to adequate standard of living), and 12 (right to highest attainable level of health).  Moreover, both the 1954 MOU with UNHCR and the reservations have been partly superseded, at least formally, by a confusing set of laws and regulations from various ministries. See, for example, United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), World Refugee Survey 2007 (Arlington, VA: USCRI, 2007), Egypt chapter, (accessed October 2, 2008): "According to a 2005 Ministry of Health decision, foreigners, including refugees, had a right to public primary health services on par with nationals, except that only indigent Egyptians were eligible for free services other than in emergencies."

[25]Human Rights Watch interview with A.I., Tel Aviv, February 29, 2008.  For Human Rights Watch's work on Sudan, see

[26]For an account of the demonstration and its denouement, see Fateh Azzam, "A Tragedy of Failures and False Expectations: Report on the Events Surrounding the three-month Sit-In and Forced Removal of Sudanese Refugees in Cairo, September–December 2005," The American University in Cairo, Forced Migration and Refugee Studies Program, June 2006, (accessed September 28, 2008).

[27]Human Rights Watch interview with refugee lawyer (name withheld), Cairo, March 12, 2008.

[28] Human Rights Watch interview with K K., Tel Aviv, March 1, 2008. Human Rights Watch was told that two of the organizers of the demonstration had fled to Israel. Human Rights Watch interview with N.N., Cairo, March 11, 2008.

[29]Human Rights Watch interview with N.N., Cairo, March 10, 2008.

[30]Human Rights Watch interview with M.P., Dinka community leader, Cairo, March 15, 2008.  According to the UNHCR Egypt spokesperson, "We've been trying to improve relations with the refugee community. We fund CBOs [community based organizations] and meet weekly with them. The team we send to meetings includes protection, resettlement, voluntary repatriation, and community services officers. There are six CBOs and we alternate weekly meetings with all of them. Our funding helps CBOs rent locations, get equipment like photocopiers, and training staff. We're doing an outreach campaign on the dangers of the trip to Israel through these meetings." Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR Egypt spokesperson, October 6th City, March 11, 2008.

[31]Human Rights Watch et al., "Egypt: New Investigation Needed Into Assault on Sudanese Protestors,"

[32]Human Rights Watch interview with I.K., Tel Aviv, February 27, 2008.

[33]Human Rights Watch interview with B.N., Ministry of Foreign Affairs, March 17, 2008.

[34] Untitled UNHCR Cairo document listing 10 "rumours," on file with Human Rights Watch.

[35]Azzam, "A Tragedy of Failures and False Expectations," pp. 32-33.


[37] Human Rights Watch letter to UNHCR Egypt spokesperson, September 16, 2008.

[38]Hotline for Migrant Workers, "Sudanese Refugees in Israel," March 8, 2008, (accessed August 26, 2008).

[39]Human Rights Watch interview with B.M., Tel Aviv, February 29, 2008.

[40] Human Rights Watch interview with A.M., Tel Aviv, March 1, 2008.

[41]She has brought charges against the two officers and, according to her lawyer, has been threatened by police. Human Rights Watch interview with refugee lawyer (name withheld), Cairo, March 12, 2008.

[42]Human Rights Watch interview with M.A., Southern Sudanese asylum seeker, Tel Aviv, February 28, 2008.

[43]Human Rights Watch interview with A.A., Southern Sudanese asylum seeker, Tel Aviv, February 28, 2008.

[44]See UNHCR, "Framework for Durable Solutions for Refugees and Persons of Concern," May 1, 2003, (accessed October 3, 2008).

[45] Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Noriko Yoshida, UNHCR Juba, August 9, 2008.  See "Egypt: Investigate Forcible Return of Refugees to Sudan," Human Rights Watch news release, May 30, 2008, 

[46]Egypt is obliged to uphold these rights generally under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. For the importance of these rights to local integration, see UNHCR ExCom Conclusion No. 104 (LVI) -- 2005.

[47] Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR Egypt spokesperson, March 11, 2008.

[48] Human Rights Watch interview with Tareq Maaty, minister plenipotentiary, deputy minister for refugees and consular affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cairo, March 16, 2008.

[49] Human Rights Watch interview with S.L., refugee lawyer, Cairo, March 10, 2008.

[50] Human Rights Watch interview with N.A., Cairo, March 11, 2008.

[51]Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR Egypt spokesperson, March 11, 2008.

[52]UNHCR provides assistance with medical care via implementing partner Caritas, which provides primary care and referrals to a network of around 15 hospitals. UNHCR covers at least 75 percent of primary healthcare costs. In 2007, 31,582 received healthcare assistance. CRS funded all or part of the education costs of nearly 7,000 asylum seekers and refugees in 2007. The total population "of concern" to UNHCR Egypt is 43,000.

[53]Human Rights Watch interview with J.M., Sudanese community leader, Cairo, March 15, 2008.

[54] Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR Egypt spokesperson, March 11, 2008.

[55] Refugees with the means to do so can enroll their children in Egyptian private schools. But even with the educational subsidy provided by UNHCR's implementing partner, CRS, most Sudanese, Eritreans, and other Africans find private schools too expensive (tuition starts at 5,000 Egyptian pounds per year). Several hundred refugees or asylum seekers have enrolled their children in Egyptian public schools, especially in Alexandria, which are less expensive but extremely difficult to access. The majority of Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers enroll their children in community-based schools, often run by churches and staffed by refugee teachers. These schools are relatively inexpensive, but the quality of education they offer is often poor. Human Rights Watch interview with Radwa Robie, management quality officer, CRS, Cairo, March 13, 2008.

[56]RPC/ Report Statistician/WO 22474 Sudan Arrivals from Egypt FY 1995 through 2008, as of 23 June 2008. Data extracted from Worldwide Refugee Admissions Processing System (WRAPS), US Department of State, Office of Admissions, Refugee Processing Center, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, June 23, 2008.

[57]Azzam, "A Tragedy of Failures and False Expectations," p. 10.

[58]Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR Egypt spokesperson, March 11, 2008. According to the spokesperson, "After the 2005 peace agreement, Southern Sudanese would have no protection under the 1951 convention. So we stopped RSD [refugee status determination] and gave them all asylum seeker status and yellow cards. Closed files are not an issue for Sudanese now, because that only happens in cases of individual RSD." 

[59] Ibid.

[60] Human Rights Watch letter and email to UNHCR Egypt spokesperson, April 5, 2008. Human Rights Watch re-sent the letter on September 16, 2008.

[61]UNHCR, "Fact Sheet – Egypt, 2007 / January 2008," on file with Human Rights Watch.

[62]Human Rights Watch interview with UNHCR Egypt spokesperson, March 11, 2008.

[63]Human Rights Watch interviews with A.P., M.P., and J.M., Cairo, March 15, 2008. A surge of violence in Abyei, Southern Sudan, in May 2008 seems to lend substance to their fears. See Nicholas D. Kristof, "Africa's Next Slaughter," New York Times, March 2, 2008, (accessed March 3, 2008).

[64] Human Rights Watch interview with M.P., Dinka community leader, Cairo, March 15, 2008.

[65] UNHCR Israel had registered 2,800 Eritrean asylum seekers as of February 2008; UNHCR Egypt had registered 1,400 by the same date.

[66]Human Rights Watch interview with Michael Kagan, senior fellow in human rights law, American University in Cairo, March 10, 2008.

[67] The Eritrean government has publicly taken the position that people who leave Eritrea for whatever reason do so as a result of a CIA plot to undermine and destroy the government by luring the country's population away. "Interview: Eritrean leader blames CIA plot for youth exodus," Reuters, May 13, 2008, (accessed August 30, 2008).

[68] Asylum seekers who are sent back to Eritrea face immediate imprisonment. The families of people who leave Eritrea face reprisal at the hands of the government. See also Amnesty International, "Sweden: Deportation / Torture: Jamil Mohamed Burhan," AI Index: EUR 42/001/2008, February 21, 2008, (accessed October 3, 2008).

[69] As of August 2007 there were approximately 130,000 Eritreans in refugee camps in Sudan. Reportedly Eritrean government forces have crossed into Sudan and raided some of the camps. See "Longterm Eritrean refugees in Sudan need durable solution – UN agency," UN News Service press release, August 22, 2007, (accessed October 3, 2008).

[70] Human Rights Watch telephone interview with F.T., Eritrean woman detained in Aswan, March 17, 2008.

[71] Human Rights Watch interviews with J.R., refugee aid worker, Cairo, March 10, 2008.

[72] Human Rights Watch interviews with T.M. and S.A., Tel Aviv, February 28, 2008, and G.T., Ethiopian community leader, Cairo, March 17, 2008.