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Religion and Society

The Sudanese in Egypt. The Emergency Continues

Cairo December 2005

Since 29 September 2005 a group of Sudanese had been staging a sit-in in a public garden outside the buildings of the UNHCR. The demonstration continued with over 1,000 people permanently staying in the garden, while thousands of others came around occasionally. The key demand of the Sudanese demonstrators was their 'relocation' to Western countries on the grounds that the Sudanese in Egypt 'are faced daily with discrimination, violence and violations of their human rights'.


After the negotiations had come to a standstill, on 30 December the police decided to intervene and ended the demonstration. The police action was very violent, in spite of the presence in the garden of many children, and ended in the deaths of at least twenty-seven people. Many of them were children of below the age of ten. The demonstrators were all taken to four police centres for identification. Many were released the following day, while over 600 people without documents were taken to three different prisons.


Between Saturday, 31 December, when over a thousand people were released, and Tuesday, 3 January, the Sacred Heart Church (Sakakini) had to face a massive emergency. Hundreds of people arrived seeking help to obtain food, housing and medication.


An appeal was sent to all the religious communities in Egypt and solidarity with the victims was shown promptly. Over seven hundred people were treated at the church or at the nearby Italian hospital for fractures and injuries of various kinds. The UNHCR offered 1,200 blankets as well as medicines. People crowded in the Church's compound to comfort each other and to obtain news about their dear ones who were missing.


For three days over two hundred people (more than half of whom were Muslims) were accommodated at the church.


The incidents of 30 December left a very deep wound in the Sudanese community and has thrown a thick shadow over their future in Egypt.