Refugees from Sudan Putting Pressure on Egypt


31 March, 2019

Conflict and political unrest in Africa has forced thousands of people to flee their homelands in the hope of finding better lives.

Many Sudanese and their families have sought refuge across the border in Egypt. But the large number of refugees is placing a strain on Egypt's resources.

El Hadi Osman is a refugee from Khartoum, the Sudanese capital. He told VOA that he left Sudan for religious reasons. He worked as a writer and reporter until Sudanese police targeted him for becoming a Christian.

El Hadi said that police told him to stop going to religious services and reject Christianity, but he refused. "When they jailed me, they beat me and hung me upside down in prison," he added.

El Hadi said that he fled to Cairo in 2014 after spending weeks in a Sudanese jail. When he arrived, he spent weeks sleeping on a walkway in a poor neighborhood. Now, he seeks help from refugee agencies to find work in order to survive.

Sudanese refugees in Egypt, like El Hadi, keep a watchful eye on events back in Sudan. Many dream of returning home if the current leadership there changes.

Santo Makoi is a political refugee from South Sudan. He studied fine arts at Khartoum University in Sudan's north before the south became independent in 2011. He worked for a European non-governmental organization called War Child, where he taught refugee children how to paint.

Santo is registered as a refugee with the United Nations, but continues to create art at a studio created by an Egyptian aid group.

Nour Khalil is a lawyer and represents immigrants living in Egypt. Khalil says the refugee crisis there is even worse than official reports suggest. Tens of thousands of Syrians, Yemenis, Ethiopians, Eritreans and Libyans have left their countries because of the many conflicts in the area. Many of these individuals are not officially registered with the U.N. refugee agency, the UNHCR.

At a recent gathering of heads of state and government from Europe and Africa, Egypt's president said that his country is heavily burdened by the millions of refugees living there.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi added that Egypt has "prevented boat-loads of refugees from leaving its territory for Europe since 2016."

The UNHCR says Egypt has given refugees protection, health care, schooling, as well as the right to work.

A UNHCR spokesperson told VOA that the United Nations "makes sure that they have access to basic services and are also supported and protected in the best way we can." But she added that the current resistance to refugees in many countries is delaying the work of her organization. She noted that "only 55,000 refugees out of millions were resettled [by UNHCR] in other countries last year."

For now, the life of a refugee in Egypt has become a struggle. Many refugees choose to go on to Libya and, from there, try to reach Europe by boat. Many others have also found themselves detained in a Libyan jail under what have been described as inhuman conditions.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Ed Yeranian reported this story for VOA News. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

strain n. a feeling of pressure and worry that you have because you are trying to do too much or are dealing with a difficult problem

resources – n. a supply of money or materials that can be used in order to work effectively

studio – n. a room where an artist works

burdened – v. something that is very difficult to accept, do, or deal with