Egyptian police arbitrarily arrested at least 30 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers during raids. The police officers told the Sudanese refugee: “You lazy Sudanese need to work because you are making a lot of problems and noise in Egypt.”
According to a report by Human Rights Watch Egyptian police arbitrarily arrested at least 30 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers during raids in December 2021 and January 2022 and subjected some to forced physical labor and beatings.
Some of the activists targeted had mobilized protests at the Cairo headquarters of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, over harassment and racist treatment by Egyptians.
Human Rights Watch interviewed three Sudanese refugees who had been arrested, as well as a member of Africans Refugees Rights, a Cairo-based civil society group. They said that on December 27, plainclothes police arbitrarily arrested 24 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers, including well-known community activists, at their homes, coffee shops, on the street, and in community centers in Cairo’s Madinat Nasr.
The police transferred them to a security facility roughly 30 minutes away and forced them to unload boxes from large trucks into warehouses, those interviewed said. They said police used batons to beat those who they claimed were not working hard enough and insulted them with racist remarks. The refugees did not receive any compensation.
One of the men told that the police had arrested him on December 27 at a community center. He said that one of the police officers who forced them to unload the trucks told him, “You lazy Sudanese need to work because you are making a lot of problems and noise in Egypt.”
In a second raid, on January 5, police arrested 19 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers at the same locations, according to Africans Refugees Rights and the 3 Sudanese refugees. At least seven people arrested in this incident had also been arrested on December 27.
They said the police also forced the 19 men to unload boxes identified as Tahya Misr from trucks at the same security facility.
Egyptian police have also targeted Sudanese people during raids to check residency permits. A person who witnessed a raid in Giza on January 24 said that the police randomly arrested Sudanese on the streets and in cafes.
An estimated two to five million Sudanese are living in Egypt. This includes over 52,000 registered Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers, according to UNHCR.
While registered Sudanese refugees in Egypt have access to public health care and education, nongovernmental organizations and media reports indicate that they and other sub-Saharan African refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants face discrimination and racism.
In response to peaceful protests by Sudanese refugees and migrants in October 2020 after a Sudanese child was killed in Cairo by an Egyptian who had financial issues with the boy’s father, security forces arbitrarily arrested dozens of protesters and subjected some to beatings, racial slurs, and other ill-treatment, according to Amnesty International.
Human Rights Watch wrote to UNHCR in February 22 seeking comment on the arrests of Sudanese refugee activists in Egypt but had not received a comment.
Image: Muhammad Ghafari