My name is Frasat Ahmad and I am spending the summer in Cairo, Egypt, working for the Resettlement Legal Aid Project (RLAP). A little about myself: I am a senior Religion major at Haverford, and I have spent the semester in Cairo studying Arabic and Religion at the American University in Cairo (AUC). I found out about RLAP through AUC from professors and friends.
RLAP is a non-profit organization that provides resettlement assistance to Middle Eastern and African refugees (mainly from Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, etc.) who are applying for permanent relocation outside of Egypt. The main countries that accept resettlement cases are America, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. I interview refugees seeking resettlement and prepare their applications and testimonies to be given to the UNHCR and the IOM (International Organization for Migration).
I began my training with RLAP this past week and discovered a lot of unsettling news about the refugee situation in Egypt: According to the UNHCR’s (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) 2010 Report, the “population of concern” in Egypt is 42,000: 54% are Sudanese, 24% Iraqis, 13% Somalis, and 9% Ethiopians and Eritreans, and all others. This is clearly not true. Other reports (from the Forced Migration and Refugee Studies Program at AUC) show that the Iraqi refugee population in Egypt alone is 150,000, whereas there may be as many as half a million to two million Sudanese refugees in Egypt. However, many of these refugees have not registered with the UNHCR to gain official refugee status in Egypt.
RLAP works only with people who already have been recognized as refugees by the UNHCR and are in the process of applying for resettlement out of Egypt. My role as a legal inters is to emphasize in the refugee testimonies that my clients are at critical risk in Egypt and/or have “particular needs.” Refugees who have legal and physical protection needs, medical needs, are victims of violence and torture, or are women at risk are most prone to gain resettlement.
My first responsibility in the office was to sort refugees’ requests for interviews with RLAP and determine whether or not their conditions were urgent enough for us to take on immediately. Reading through their requests was truly heart wrenching. Most of the requests were urgent, but we could only choose the ones that were most dire and life threatening. (I can’t discuss the specifics of cases because of confidentiality reasons). These refugees suffer from horrible conditions and the Egyptian government barely does anything to support their needs. Even though RLAP is a tiny organization, it’s still a direly needed source of relief and support for these refugees.