Eric Olson - AMES Honors Thesis


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Eric Olson - AMES Honors Thesis

  1. 1. Refugees Without Refuge: A Study of the Nexus Between Egypt’s Geopolitics and its Policies Towards Three Disparate Refugee Communities Eric R. Olson '12 Honors Thesis Professor Jennifer Fluri, Advisor Professor Carol Bohmer, Second Reader Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies June 2012
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  3. 3. ! Acknowledgements First, and foremost, I would like to thank Professor Jennifer Fluri for providing invaluable advice throughout this year long process. Without her extensive guidance, critical eye, and endless support this work would never have come close to completion. Writing a thesis has been the most rewarding academic experience of my Dartmouth career, and I sincerely appreciate the extensive time Professor Fluri devoted to working with me over the last year. It was truly a pleasure. I must also acknowledge three other individuals who greatly aided me over the course of the last year, especially my second reader Professor Carol Bohmer, my RWIT editor and good friend Jacob Batchelor ’12, and Professor Mostafa Ouajjani, who provided invaluable assistance with translation. I’d also like to thank my friends for supporting me throughout this process, in addition to my parents, Eric and Nancy Olson, who have ceaselessly supported me for twenty-two years. Finally, I wish to dedicate this thesis to my friends in the refugee community in Cairo, who I was fortunate enough to work and teach with in the fall of 2009. The nature of refugee flow complicates continued communication, and I have lost touch with many of my friends and students, but the impact these amazing, intelligent, and continually optimistic individuals had on my life directly influenced me to focus my thesis in the field of refugee studies. I owe them my deepest gratitude.
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  5. 5. ! TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER 1:: Background and Overview. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1 Why Egypt?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 History of Refugee Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Role of the Host State in Refugee Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Role of UNHCR in Refugee Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Nature of Contemporary Refugee Flows . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 CHAPTER 2: Egyptian Governmental Policies Towards Refugees. . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Reservations on the 1951 Convention . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 The 1954 Memorandum of Understanding. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 UNHCR and RSD Procedures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .19 CHAPTER 3: The Palestinian Refugee Experience in Egypt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 The Nasser Era . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30 The Sadat Era . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 The Mubarak Era . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 47 CHAPTER 4: The Sudanese Refugee Experience in Egypt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 History of Sudanese Refugee Flow in Egypt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 49 Obstacles to Study of the Refugee Population in Egypt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 The Sudan-Egypt Relationship . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52 Change in Policy Towards Sudanese Refugees. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55 CHAPTER 5: The Iraqi Refugee Experience in Egypt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 69 Unique RSD Procedures For Iraqi Refugees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71 U.S. Influence On Egyptian Treatment of Iraqi Refugees . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 78 CHAPTER 6: Recommendations and Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 Recommendations at the International Level. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85 Recommendations at the Egyptian Governmental Level. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .86 Recommendations at the UNHCR Level . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 Recommendations at the Refugee Level . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .91 Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 92 Appendix 1 - Four Freedoms Agreement Translation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93 Works Cited. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 97 Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 103
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  7. 7. ! 1 1 Background and Overview Introduction Massive refugee flows constitute one of the greatest contemporary humanitarian challenges of our time. There is an urgent need to discern the most effective means of administering to the nearly 43 million displaced persons across the globe.1 Refugee protection primarily occurs as a humanitarian action because the very existence of refugee populations indicates a failure on behalf of a national government to provide adequate protection to its citizens. The absence of governmental protection greatly increases the probability that refugee populations will endure gross human rights violations, which in many instances can only be prevented by benevolent humanitarian assistance. Upon displacement, refugees live under the protection of a number of different organizations; refugee communities depend on humanitarian assistance for a multitude of services, ranging from basic necessities such as water to the procurement of a permanent solution to their plight through resettlement. Unfortunately, refugee advocacy often fails to safeguard refugees from the detrimental effects that naturally accompany displacement. Effective implementation of refugee protection hinges on the efficacy of refugee administration: specifically, the means by which different organizations classify, control, and manage domestic refugee populations. To discern the most efficient manner of refugee administrative, it is necessary to identify the factors influencing the sufficiency or inadequacy of refugee assistance at all levels of the refugee phenomenon. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1 Sedghi, Amy and Simon Rogers. “UNHCR 2011 refugee statistics: full data,” The Guardian, 20 June
  8. 8. ! 2 The framework of this study consists of a ‘top-down analysis,’ beginning at the international level, and continuing to the domestic, national level, with particular focus on how these two levels interact and influence refugee administration. The reason for this methodology is that refugee flows are intrinsically linked at the international and domestic levels. Mass migration occurs in response to instability at the domestic level, at which point populations enter the international arena by seeking refuge in a ‘host state,’ the country that opens up its border to individuals fleeing persecution. Once residing in a host state, refugee communities live under the aegis of both the host state government and existing administrative bodies, subject to the policies outlined by both actors. The administrative policies of a host state for refugee communities vary wildly, dependent on the unique conditions of the specific host state. Economic, social, and political factors all directly influence the refugee policy of a host state, combining idiosyncratically in a way that is dependent on the distinct situation in the host state. Thus, the refugee issue is herein examined always in the context of an individual host state, as removing the refugee from the surrounding environment ignores a basic reality of refugee situations. For this reason, this study narrowly focuses on a particular host state, Egypt, in order to ascertain the best methods of refugee advocacy in that country. This study analyzes Egypt’s international geopolitics through the historical management of its domestic refugee populations. The disparate methods employed by Egypt over time and across different categories of refugees reveal the important linkages between international refugee management policy as connected more to international geopolitical strategies than to the needs or actions of the refugee populations within its borders. The relationship between domestic refugee populations and the Egyptian
  9. 9. ! 3 government often parallels the broader relationship between the population’s country of origin and the Egyptian government. In this sense, the Egyptian government’s actions towards refugee populations operate as a state-governing substitute. Its policies reflect both the friendly and acrimonious nature of this relationship. Refugee communities lack the power to resist sometimes-oppressive measures enacted by the Egyptian government. Thus, geopolitics directly affects the daily lives and experiences of refugee communities in Egypt. Analyzing the historical experience of three different refugee communities in Egypt – the Palestinian, Sudanese, and Iraqi populations – will identify the broader trends that improve or worsen the average refugee experience in Egypt; this analysis constitutes the first primary objective of this study. Once determining the prevailing trends in Egyptian refugee administration, the different levels of administration are examined in an attempt to ascertain policy changes maximizing effective refugee administration and advocacy. In keeping with the multi-tiered nature of contemporary refugee movements, recommendations are posited at a specific level of the refugee regime in Egypt. If implemented, these policy recommendations will drastically increase refugee protection in Egypt. Why Egypt? For a number of reasons, Egypt is an appropriate and important focus of this study. Historically, Egypt has acted as a haven for refugees fleeing instability, indicating that an analysis of refugee administration in Egypt will have implications for future refugee flows. Two factors directly foster Egypt’s status as a refugee sanctuary. First, Egypt has an open-door policy that generally allows any individual seeking refuge to reside within its borders. Second, Egypt’s geographical location, straddling the Middle
  10. 10. ! 4 East, North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Mediterranean, dictates its use “since biblical times”2 as a refuge for many different populations fleeing from instability in their homeland. The Middle East and North Africa currently contain “the largest refugee population in the world,”3 with six million displaced persons currently residing in the region. Today, Cairo hosts “one of the five largest refugee populations living in urban areas,”4 comprised of communities of many different origins. Egypt’s status as “one of the few stable countries in the region”5 coupled with the government’s tendency to be “generous in opening up its border to refugees, especially those coming from neighboring countries”6 greatly influences the decision of many refugees to seek at least temporary refuge there. For example, since the Libyan revolution of 2011, 500,000 Libyans have been displaced into neighboring Egypt,7 and the continuous presence of refugees indicates the likelihood of future refugee flows through Egypt. Due to the historical ubiquity of mass migration in Egypt, an analysis of the factors affecting refugee policy in this country will help meaningfully administrate future displaced populations. After the January 25th Revolution, which ended the thirty-year reign of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt finds itself in the unique position to reformulate much of its policy towards refugee administration. As will be discussed later, many of the integral features of the refugee structure in Egypt have remained unchanged for over fifty years, impeding the implementation of an effective and protective refugee administration. If Egypt seizes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 Zohry, Ayman. “Cairo: A transit city for migrants and African Refugees.” Circulations migratoires et reconfigurations territoriales entre l’Afrique noire et l’Afrique du Nord, CEDEJ, Cairo 17-18 November, 1 3 Roudi, Farzaneh, “Population Trends and Challenges in the Middle East and North Africa,” Population Research Bureau, Dec. 2001, Web. 31 March 2012, 6 4 Zohry, “Cairo: A transit city for migrants and African Refugees,” 1 5 Grabska, Katarzyna. “Who Asked Them Anyway?: Rights, Policies and Wellbeing of Refugees in Egypt.” The American University in Cairo - Center for Migration and Refugee Studies, July 2006. Web. 8 Oct. 2011, 13 6 Grabska, “Who Asked Them Anyway?,” 18 7 “UNHCR – Egypt,” UNHCR. UNHCR, 2012. Web. 1 June 2012.
  11. 11. ! 5 this unprecedented opportunity to implement a reformed refugee policy, subsequent refugee communities will not endure the harsh nature characteristic of the average refugee experience in Egypt. This will simultaneously increase the possibility of reaching a reasonable solution to existing refugee situations. Thus, implementing reformed, more effective refugee policies will benefit refugee communities by providing greater protection, and the Egyptian government by decreasing the possibility of intractable refugee flows within Egypt’s borders, which creates an immense social burden. Finally, I developed a personal interest in the study of refugees in Egypt over the last four years. In the fall of 2009, I lived and worked in Cairo as an intern for the refugee advocacy organization Student Action for Refugees (STAR), which aimed to empower the refugee community in Egypt through free, weekly English classes. My experience over the three months I spent working with members of the refugee community exposed me a dynamic, vibrant population that exuded intelligence, interest in learning, and boundless optimism in the face of constant hardship. Furthermore, I witnessed firsthand the dire circumstances that many members of this community experience in Egypt: a friend from Iraq disappeared for days after being detained by the Egyptian security forces, students from Sudan felt unsafe walking through the streets of Cairo, and another Sudanese student returned home after his family was kidnapped, essentially trading his life for their safety. Clearly, the current measures taken to ensure refugee advocacy in Egypt fall far short of providing adequate protection to this community. In addition, next fall I will return to Cairo to intern at the Resettlement Legal Aid Project (RLAP), where I will tangibly apply the research gleaned from this
  12. 12. ! 6 study in an everyday capacity. For these reasons, I believe that a study of the current and historical trends of refugee administration and advocacy in Egypt will yield relevant and applicable recommendations for increasing the effectiveness of Egypt’s refugee protection apparatus. History of Refugee Management After the horrific genocides of World War II and ensuing mass migratory movements, the international community recognized the need to protect individuals whose home countries could not, by either choice or circumstance, provide them with adequate protection. In hopes of preventing further atrocities, the United Nations in 1951 convened the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (CRSR), which laid the groundwork for international refugee protection. This convention outlined the currentlyused definition of refugee as an individual who: Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion is outside the country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.8 Importantly, this convention originally protected only the displaced peoples of Europe until 1967, when the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugee removed geographical criteria and globally extended protection for displaced populations. The original definition composed by the 1951 United Nations Convention aids governments in minimizing refugees, because “in the strictest sense, most of today’s refugees do not qualify.”9 Although efforts have been made to revise the definition to be more inclusive, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 8 UN General Assembly, Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 28 July 1951, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 189, 1 June 2012, 1 9 Mayotte, Judy A. Disposable People?: The Plight of Refugees. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1992. Print. 3-4
  13. 13. ! 7 nations have routinely rejected any modifications in order to minimize legal obligations.10 These two treaties form the legal basis for the primary means of international refugee humanitarian assistance with 147 states party to at least one of these instruments.11 Namely, its signatories are required to cooperate with the organization United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) “in the exercise of its functions.”12 Moreover, after the 1951 convention, UNHCR began to establish offices in many countries prone to experiencing refugee flows. UNHCR’s function in Egypt is examined in detail in Chapter 2. Role of the Host State in Refugee Management The majority of host states, Egypt included, enacted policies that minimize their role in refugee protection, but still allow refugees to access their borders, providing a bare minimum level of protection. A prominent scholar in the field of refugee studies, Gil Loescher, succinctly describes the archetypical host state response: Host country involvement has generally been quite limited, focusing on the admission and recognition of refugees on their territory; respect for the principle of non-refoulement … and the provision of security to refugees and humanitarian personnel.13 By limiting the amount of assistance extended to domestic refugee communities, host states can create intractable refugee situations by minimizing refugee assistance to such an extent that refugee populations cannot fund emigration from Egypt, stranding them within its borders. Thus, although host state governments may intend to prevent local !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 10 Haddad, Emma. The Refugee in International Society: Between Sovereigns. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. Print, 27 11 “Status Parties to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 Protocol,” UNHCR. UNHCR, April 1, 2011. Web. 1 June 2012 12 UN General Assembly, 3 13 Loescher, Gil. Protracted Refugee Situations: Political, Human Rights and Security Implications. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2008. Print, 124
  14. 14. ! 8 integration by enacting restrictive policies, in reality these measures may work counteractively, lengthening the existence of domestic refugee communities. In host states, refugees are seen as ‘outsiders’ for society, and governments employ refugee communities as an ‘other’ in order to advance the government’s political agenda. Host state governments manipulate societal perception of refugees, espousing political rhetoric reflecting the current state of the relationship between the government and domestic refugee populations. The media provides the most effective medium to disseminate prevailing political discourse, and my analysis of three populations, Palestinian, Sudanese, and Iraqi will illustrate how popular media, especially state-run media, reflects the host government’s agenda. As mentioned earlier, the host state plays the primary role in determining the conditions of the average refugee experience. But, host state policy continually evolves, dynamically responding to events at the international and domestic level. Factors influencing host state policy include, but are not limited to, “migration, security, development, trade, and peace-building,” 14 For this reason, the needs of refugee communities continually changes in response to new policy, thus complicating refugee advocacy efforts. The fickleness of refugee policy may appear to impede policy recommendations for future refugee flows, but the historical analysis undertaken in Chapters 3, 4, and 5 demonstrates a number of broad currents present throughout the historical refugee experience in Egypt. Determining the historical trends existing throughout refugee administration in Egypt will allow the construction of a more effective refugee protection apparatus. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 14 Milner, James. Refugees, the State and the Politics of Asylum in Africa. Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Print, 3
  15. 15. ! 9 Role of UNHCR in Refugee Management Aside from the host state government, UNHCR serves as the primary mechanism for refugee administration in host states. UNHCR’s mandate outlines its primary mission “to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.”15 Theoretically, this mandate obligates UNHCR to provide protection to all individual refugees worldwide. Yet, due in part to the immense burden of providing refugee protection globally, exacerbated by constraining host state policies, UNHCR has failed to fully uphold its mission. UNHCR itself acknowledges the limitations of its aid in regards to Egypt: “In view of the difficult socio-economic conditions faced by refugees and asylum-seekers in Egypt, UNHCR and its partners provide assistance to the most destitute and those with specific needs.”16 One of UNHCR’s primary functions in host states such as Egypt involves administering refugees in the process known as refugee status determination (RSD), perhaps the most important aspect of refugee administration for refugees. RSD is the process by which an organization (typically the government or UNHCR) determines that a refugee holds a valid claim to refugee status. By acknowledging that an individual fulfills the criteria for refugee status, UNHCR also recognizes its obligation to provide such individual with a number of basic social services. Significantly, UNHCR enacts divergent RSD procedures for different refugee populations. UNHCR’s liberal or conservative policy in granting RSD procedures often determines the conditions of a refugee’s experience in Egypt, as the failure to obtain refugee status drives individuals, now technically illegal immigrants, to the fringe of Egyptian society. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 15 16 “What We Do,” UNHCR. UNHCR, 2012. Web. 1 June 2012. “UNHCR – Egypt”
  16. 16. ! 10 In terms of resolving refugee situations, UNHCR has outlined three “durable solutions” that allow refugees to “rebuild their lives in dignity and peace:” Repatriation, Local Integration, and Resettlement.17 The repatriation of refugees occurs when conditions in their country of origin have stabilized enough that returning to their home no longer poses a serious threat to the community’s well-being. But as the length of the average refugee situation has increased over the last twenty years (a development discussed at length in the next section), the viability of repatriation as a solution for refugee situations has decreased greatly. Local integration presupposes the existence of favorable conditions in a host state that allow individual refugees to develop sustainable, permanent livelihoods. Unfortunately, many host states, Egypt included, enact policies that restrict the economic or social rights of refugees to the point where integration in the host state cannot occur. The specific obstacles to local integration in Egypt are outlined in the next chapter, but currently resettlement remains the most viable solution for ending refugee situations. Resettlement opportunities are often limited to the most vulnerable of refugees, whose continuing presence in a host state presents an immediate threat to the individual’s safety. For most refugees, however, resettlement remains the ultimate objective due to the obstacles preventing repatriation and local integration. The efficacy and necessity of resettlement as a solution to refugee situations was directly acknowledged by Sadako Ogata, the then-acting UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who confirmed, “Resettlement can no longer be seen as the least-preferred durable solution; in many cases it is the only solution for refugees.”18 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 17 “Durable Solutions,” UNHCR. UNHCR, 2012. Web. 1 June 2012. “Understanding Resettlement to the UK: A Guide to the Gateway Protection Programme,” Refugee Council, Resettlement Inter-Agency Partnership, June 2004. Web. 1 June 2012. 18
  17. 17. ! 11 Nature of Contemporary Refugee Flows In the fifty-plus years since the advent of the modern international refugee, heralded by the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the nature of the average refugee experience has dramatically changed, especially in terms of length. Refugee flows contemporary to the CRSR, with the notable exception of the Palestinian population, rarely lasted longer than a few years. Reflecting the smaller nature of refugee situations, UNHCR originally lacked the ability to independently raise funds.19 Protecting these refugee populations posed far less of a challenge for governments and administrative bodies, but the increasing number of refugee flows led to UNHCR’s primary role in refugee administration in countries such as Egypt. In stark contrast, current refugees experience much longer periods of displacement in phenomenon scholars have coined “protracted refugee situations” or “PRS.”20 In the ten year period between 1993 and 2003, the average refugee experienced almost doubled21 and approximately “two-thirds of refugees in the world today are not in emergency situations, instead trapped in protracted refugee situations.”22 Refugee scholar Gil Loescher provides the best definition of PRS: “protracted refugee situations involve large refugee populations that are long standing, chronic or recurring, and for which there are no immediate prospects for a solution.”23 Clearly, this shift dynamically alters the global refugee landscape necessitating novel examination of PRS and its effects on refugee policy making. Worryingly, this perception of refugee situations as temporary !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 19 Loescher, Gil. The UNHCR and World Politics: A Perilous Path. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. Print, 8 20 Loescher, Protracted Refugee Situations, 3 21 Milner, 168 22 Loescher, Protracted Refugee Situations, 3 23 Loescher, Protracted Refugee Situations, 23
  18. 18. ! 12 extends to the primary actors involved in refugee protection “including the government, UNHCR, service providers and refugees themselves.”24 Examining the refugee question through the lens of PRS allows a more realistic understanding of the current refugee regime. In addition to a general elongation, refugee flows have become increasingly politicized over the previous three decades. Now, many international actors view massive refugee flows as a threat to global security rather than humanitarian crises requiring immediate assistance. This new perception of displaced populations has profound importance for refugee protection, and populations deemed unimportant to security interests often lack the humanitarian assistance provided to populations considered crucial for security interests. For example, the United States largely refrains from involvement in refugee situations in Africa, “where their strategic interests were limited.”25 This study attempts to engage the politicization of refugee communities in Egypt to reveal the geopolitical factors that can benefit or harm displaced populations. Overview Chapter 2 expands on the basic framework of contemporary refugee flows outlined above, detailing how the international refugee has manifested itself in Egypt, and the specific intra-country conditions affecting all refugee populations. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 undertake historical surveys of three different refugees populations—Palestinian, Sudanese, and Iraqi, respectively—that currently reside in Egypt. Special attention is paid to the international, domestic, and intra-population factors that affect treatment of refugees in Egypt. Finally, Chapter 6 analyzes the implications of this study for the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 24 25 Grabska, “Who Asked Them Anyway?,”53 Loescher, The UNHCR and World Politics, 13
  19. 19. ! 13 international and domestic refugee framework, with particular focus on methods to maximize the efficiency of refugee advocacy at all levels of refugee administration in Egypt. The resolution of the three refugee situations examined in this study would have profound benefits for global stability and prosperity by increasing the likelihood of a Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement, in addition to signaling a new chapter in two of the bloodiest wars in recent history, the Sudanese Civil War and the Iraq War. Identifying the most effective means to maximize the protection offered by intra-host state refugee policies will play a crucial role in fostering resolutions to contemporary and future refugee situations.
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  21. 21. ! 2 1 15 Egyptian Governmental Policies Towards Refugees Building on the previous chapter’s outline of the refugee regime at the international level, this chapter aims to contextualize refugee experience in Egypt in general. Although the discussed-previously international refugee structure frames the contemporary state of refugee aid and advocacy, host state policies have the greatest effect on the refugee experience,26 necessitating a greater focus on the host state and its administration of refugee communities. Egyptian governmental policies towards refugees create harsh, trying conditions that affect almost every single refugee population currently and historically residing within its borders. A combination of factors, including Egypt’s willful ignorance of international obligations, abdication of responsibility to NGOs, and the policies of the primary refugee aid organization in Egypt, UNHCR, have seriously hampered the ability of refugees residing within Egypt’s borders to maintain any sustainable livelihood. Significantly, the harshness of the average refugee situation transcends all nationalities. This chapter aims to convey the conditions experienced by refugees throughout Egypt, regardless of country of origin, while the following three chapters examine the specific policies towards specific refugee populations. Together, these four chapters provide insight to the most effective means of refugee protection and advocacy in Egypt, which is expanded upon at length in Chapter 6. Egypt’s open door policy allows into its borders almost any refugee seeking shelter, a laudable policy that provides temporary protection to endangered populations !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 26 Jacobsen, Karen. “Livelihoods in Conflict: The of Livelihoods by Refugees and the Impact on the Human Security of Host Communities.” International Migration, Vol. 40, No. 5 (2002): 95-123, 101
  22. 22. ! 16 by generally sparing refugees “the threat of refoulement.”27 This does not mean, however, that the country is opening itself up as a permanent residence to these populations. To this end, the government makes significant efforts to ensure that refugees eventually seek shelter in another country, either by asylum or repatriation. Thus, almost all refugees in Cairo view “Egypt as a transit country”28 due to their inability to successfully integrate into Egyptian society. An examination of Egypt’s historical treaties regarding refugee populations explicates the primary obstacles to refugee integration in Egyptian society. Reservations on the 1951 Convention Egypt placed a number of reservations on the 1951 Convention that exempt the Egyptian government from many of the obligations required by signatories to this convention; such obligations intend to protect the basic rights of refugees residing in host countries. 29 Egypt specifically placed reservations on (i) Article 12.1, requiring host countries to administer RSD procedures, (ii) Article 20, guaranteeing equal treatment for refugees in regards to rationing, (iii) Article 22.1, obligating the host country to provide refugees with free public education, (iv) Article 23, ensuring refugees receive the same public relief as nationals, and (v) Article 24, the article providing refugees with economic rights.30 Clearly, these reservations inhibit refugees from developing any sort of sustainable livelihood in Egypt because they are prevented from engaging in the Egyptian economy in a meaningful capacity. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 27 Ohta, I. and Y.D. Gebre, (eds.) Displacement Risks in Africa. Kyoto U.P. (Japan) and Trans Pacific Press, Melbourne (Australia), 2005, 27 28 Zohry, “Cairo: A transit city for migrants and African Refugees,” 9 29 Zohry, “Cairo: A transit city for migrants and African Refugees,” 3 30 UN General Assembly, 20-26
  23. 23. ! 17 In addition to the 1951 Convention, Egypt is party to a number of domestic and international treaties intended to provide protection to refugees, but oftentimes Egypt fails to abide by these treaties’ obligations. For example, Article 53 of the Egyptian Constitution broadly guarantees political asylum: the right to political asylum shall be granted by the State to every foreigner persecuted for defending the people’s interests, human rights, peace or justice … the extradition of political refugees shall be prohibited31 In practice, however, this article rarely provides protection to any individual seeking political asylum, as it is only invoked in cases involving prominent political figures such as the Shah of Iran. Here, the highly politicized nature of refugee flow becomes clear; Egypt is happy to receive global recognition as a refugee heaven, while the majority of refugees do not receive the protection of the Egyptian government. Egypt’s blatant disregard for its international obligations yields an obvious question: why sign these treaties in the first place? The answer again lies with international global politics. Humanitarian aid serves almost as a form of political currency with which countries can advance other geopolitical interests. The appearance of benevolent action does more political work than enacting actual humanitarian aid, as states gain favor from other actors in the political realm by projecting an image of humanitarianism.32 Hence, as signatory to many of the international treaties relating to refugees, Egypt has projected an image of itself as a country hospitable to refugees, but beyond this façade, it makes no real effort to provide protection. Egypt, however, is not alone in its efforts to limit the amount of refugee protection, as many “governments and intergovernmental organizations [that] assume legal responsibilities” for refugee !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 31 32 Zohry, “Cairo: A transit city for migrants and African Refugees,” 2 Haddad, 93
  24. 24. ! 18 communities have a “tendency … to limit these responsibilities to narrow categories.”33 To further limit governmental obligations regarding refugee protection, NGOs serve as the primary administrative bodies for managing refugee populations in Egypt. The 1954 Memorandum of Understanding Refugees in Egypt live under the control of UNHCR, as opposed to the Egyptian government, due to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two parties in 1954. This shift in responsibility from “state-to-UN … occurs because it serves several state interests,”34 most importantly alleviating some of the burdens large refugee flows place on host governments. The context surrounding this agreement is that it was signed during a period when no significant refugee populations (aside from relatively small Palestinian and Armenian communities) resided in Egypt.35 This fact explains the rather expansive nature of the agreement, which broadly guaranteed protection for all refugees on Egyptian soil. UNHCR and the Egyptian government never predicted the immense refugee flows of the following decades. At the time of its founding, UNHCR was intended to only exist temporarily,36 designed to solve the comparatively minor contemporary refugee crises. The drastic change in the nature of refugee flow since UNHCR’s establishment led a shift in its mandate, which legally guarantees all refugees worldwide protection, to policies that must often choose between bad and less bad !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 33 Keely, Charles B, and Patricia J. Elwell. Global Refugee Policy: The Case for a Development-Oriented Strategy. New York, N.Y: Population Council, 1981. Print, 12 34 Kagan, Michael. “Shared Responsibility in a New Egypt: A Strategy for Refugee Protection.” The American University in Cairo - Center for Migration and Refugee Studies, Sept. 2011. Web. 8 Oct. 2011, 22-23 35 Badawy, Tarek. “The Memorandum of Understanding between Egypt and the Office of the United States Commissioner for Refugees: Problems and Recommendations.” CARIM Analytic and Synthetic Notes, Jul. 2010. Web. 1 June 2012, 8 36 Loescher, Gil, and Laila Monahan. Refugees in International Relations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989. Print, 188
  25. 25. ! 19 options due to realities on the ground.37 In practice, this agreement supersedes many of Egypt’s obligations as signatory to international treaties, and the government’s obligations under the 1951 Convention have been relegated to UNHCR due to the aforementioned MOU.38 Due to the Egyptian government’s deferral of refugee administration to UNHCR, the organization’s policies largely dictate the refugee experience in Cairo. UNHCR and RSD Procedures The first UNHCR office in Egypt opened in 1954 and, in the five decades since, UNHCR has continued to act as the primary administrator of refugees by determining which individuals are granted refugee status through RSD procedures.39 The Egyptian government’s abdication of responsibility for RSD to UNHCR “runs counter to the general preference in international law that status determination be conducted by states.”40 The reason state-run RSD is preferable in humanitarian assistance originates from the common conception that the government can be held more accountable than outside organizations. Yet, the Egyptian government’s historical predisposition to disregard its international obligations indicates that governmental administration of RSD in Egypt would not improve the average refugee experience. In fact, UNHCR’s RSD procedures often respond to changes in the Egyptian political sphere rather than the needs of the refugee communities, a tendency that detrimentally affects refugee populations in Egypt. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 37 Stedman, Stephen J, and Fred Tanner. Refugee Manipulation: War, Politics, and the Abuse of Human Suffering. Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution Press, 2003. Print, 137 38 Badawy, 9 39 Zohry, “Cairo: A transit city for migrants and African Refugees,” 2 40 Kagan, Michael. “Frontier Justice: Legal Aid and UNHCR Refugee Status Determination in Egypt.” Journal of Refugee Studies, Vol. 19, No.1 (2006): 45-68, 47
  26. 26. ! 20 The inevitable conflict of interest arising from UNHCR’s contradictory international and domestic mandates often leads to problems ensuring effective refugee protection. In other words, when UNHCR unburdens host countries from the obligation of implementing and carrying out RSD procedures, the organization betrays its primary mandate. To this end, a recent analysis of UNHCR’s prime directives in urban areas reached the following conclusion: UNHCR policy on refugees in urban areas has two principal objectives: to promote self-reliance of refugees and avoid their dependency on UNHCR assistance; and to discourage the irregular movement of refugees … by limiting the assistance made available to them.41 Scholars in the field of refugee studies refer to the type of protection provided by UNHCR in Egypt as “A Bed for the Night Policy.”42 This type of policy provides “unqualified short-term emergency relief to those in life-threatening circumstances,”43 but does not aim to foster any significant long-term protection. The limited nature of refugee aid in Egypt “can come at a high cost to those who[se] lives are at risk”44 Importantly, these contradictory policies lengthen refugee situations by preventing communities from developing sustainable livelihoods to fund emigration to a country of asylum. UNHCR as an organization should not be considered as intentionally robbing refugees of international protection; instead, it is the victim of tight budgetary constraints preventing the implementation of measures that adequately provide refugee protection. A recent study of UNHCR policy in Cairo commissioned by the organization’s Evaluation !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 41 Sperl, Stefan. “Evaluation of UNHCR’s policy in urban areas: A case study of review.” UNHCR – Evaluation and Policy Unit. June 2001. Web. 1 June 2012, 3 42 Loescher, Refugees in International Relations, 40 43 Ibid 44 Loescher, Refugees in International Relations, 42
  27. 27. ! 21 Policy an Analysis Unit concluded: “the office is in an unenviable position. It has neither the staffing resources to deal adequately with the demands placed upon it by the asylum seekers nor does it have the financial resources to implement an assistance programme.”45 In addition to financial obstacles, UNHCR’s reliance on western donor states for most of its budget compounds the problems of refugee administration at the domestic level. In 1999, three international actors, the United States, Japan, and the European Union, provided UNHCR with approximately 94% of its budget.46 By providing financial backing to UNHCR, a small number of mostly western states can greatly influence the organization’s operations. This influence often limits the operations of UNHCR, preventing the organization from carrying out massive humanitarian operations even when refugee communities desperately need assistance. In response to the dominance of Western states in refugee administration, host states have similarly taken actions to minimize refugee assistance. As the number of refugees globally has drastically increased over the last three decades, “the prioritization of Western geopolitical concerns over the concerns of African states … caused significant concern for host states … and resulted in a marked change in their characterization of the presence of refugees.”47 This change often inhibits any efforts to increase the efficacy of refugee protection, as host states, including Egypt, constrain the NGOs operating within their borders. For most of its operational history in Egypt, UNHCR has carried out RSD in a uniform, simplistic manner that often neglected to provide refugees with adequate protection. Until 2002, refugees registering with UNHCR “were given a minute slip of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 45 Sperl, 22 Loescher, UNHCR in World Politics, 349-50 47 Milner, 29 46
  28. 28. ! 22 paper that only showed the date of the interview and passport number,” documents which served as the only means for a refugee to demonstrate his or her refugee status.48 Unfortunately, although Egyptian authorities are legally obligated under the MOU to respect UNHCR in its capacity as overseer of the refugee communities in Cairo, “police and security do not recognize” these slips of paper and regularly detain individual refugees with adequate documentation.49 In 2002, UNHCR began revamping its RSD procedures and took measures to better ensure Egyptian authorities’ respect for UNHCR’s authority over refugee populations. New measures, implemented after reaching an agreement with the Egyptian government,50 center around yellow cards, slips of paper issued to all refugees who apply for refugee status, that “clearly explain that the holder is the concern of UNHCR.”51 Yellow cards are valid for six months, and renewable up to three times; the lengthier protection afforded by this new documentation helps prevent refugees currently engaged in RSD with UNHCR, which often takes months or even years. By lengthening the protection period, UNHCR prevents many individuals from a de facto lapse into illegal status, which in turn helps avoid harassment from Egyptian authorities.52 These cards are issued to everyone applying for refugee status, rather than only being issued to those receiving refugee status, thus providing a more effective protection blanket. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 48 Zohry, “Cairo: A transit city for migrants and African Refugees,” 8 Ibid 50 Kagan, Michael. “Assessment of Refugee Status Determination Procedure At UNHCR’s Cairo Office: 2001-2002.” Scholarly Works, Paper 643, 2002. Web. 1 June 2012, 3 51 Grindell, Richard. “A Study of Refugees’ Experience of Detention in Egypt.” The American University of Cairo – Center for Migration and Refugee Studies. 2002. Web. 1 June 2012, 109 52 Zohry, “Cairo: A transit city for migrants and African Refugees,” 8 49
  29. 29. ! 23 UNHCR’s RSD procedures are in many respects inadequate, as the process disempowers the refugee community in Egypt due to its oblique nature. A recent study of UNHCR’s RSD policies in Egypt scathingly concluded: Of particular concern, applicants [for refugee status] are rejected without being given specific reason, negative credibility decisions are reached with unclear criteria and without as much interviewing as called for by the UNHCR handbook; most appeals are rejected without an in-person interview; many RSD procedures and policies remain withheld from the public; and there is reason for concern that the UNHCR-Cairo decisionmaking process violates the principle of res judicata and may be structure to scrutinize positive decisions more thoroughly than rejections.53 Recently, the number of applications for UNHCR decreased, with some citing the nontransparent nature of RSD in Egypt as the cause, and reporting “UNHCR has a drastic mistrust relationship with refugees in Cairo.”54 Oftentimes, UNHCR rejects refugee applications for a possible multitude of reasons, in turn creating a large population of now ‘illegal’ refugees, while simultaneously creating the appearance of a small refugee population. Population estimates for these unregistered refugees vary wildly. Most studies point to an extremely large ‘underground’ population, with some appraisals reaching as high as 500,000.55 Again, the reasons for minimizing official refugee statistics by pushing individuals into ‘illegal’ status lie in the intense politicization of the refugee issue. The relationship between the Egyptian government and UNHCR allows the former to influence official refugee numbers, which “can be the result of a particular !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 53 Kagan, “Assessment of Refugee Status Determination Procedures at UNHCR’s Cairo Office: 20012002,” 3 54 Salih, Assad Khalid. “Sudanese Demonstrations in Cairo: Different Stands and Different Opinions.” 4th Annual Migration Postgraduate Student Conference, University of London. 18-19 Mar. 2006, 10 55 Badawy, 8
  30. 30. ! 24 politicized dynamic, often reflecting a process of negotiation between the Office and the host government.”56 Refugee protection in Egypt inherently presents many difficulties due to the notoriously oppressive nature of the Egyptian security apparatus, which regularly harasses and detains refugees. A recent study of the refugee experience in detention observed that, although yellow cards explicitly state an individual is under UNHCR protection, “only one respondent who explained [to Egyptian security forces attempting to detain him] that he was under the protection of UNHCR was released immediately.”57 Detention often entails physical or mental abuse, and “everyone taken into detention in Egypt is at risk of torture” according to Amnesty International.58 The possibility of detention greatly influences the refugee experience in Egypt, and fosters a culture of fear throughout the community. The risk of being absconded into the custody of the Egyptian security forces discourages refugees from developing sustainable livelihoods in Egypt, by extension discouraging individuals from even attempting to integrate in Egyptian society. Due to the obstacles of integration outlined above, refugees often view resettlement as the only solution to their plight once they are in Cairo. Unfortunately, due to the limited number of resettlement spots available, most transients will not receive a resettlement position through asylum in another country. In response to the lack of resettlement opportunities, UNHCR has demonstrated initiative by reaching out to countries of asylum, and “urg[ing] resettlement countries to help it resolve intractable, or sticky, situations through targeted resettlement.”59 Similarly, NGOs have responded to !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 56 Loescher, Protracted Refugee Situations, 22 Grindell, 109 58 Ibid 59 Loescher, Protracted Refugee Situations, 156 57
  31. 31. ! 25 this reality, and today “Egypt may have the largest and most developed asylum-seeker legal aid initiatives of any country where UNHCR is solely responsible for RSD.”60 The importance of resettlement as a durable solution for refugee situations must factor into any reformulated refugee policy. Societal perception of refugee group, largely negative, drastically impacts domestic refugee policies, and significantly influences Egyptian governmental administration of these communities. The centrality of public perception in the refugee experience does not, however, inherently lead to the oppression of refugee communities, as popular conceptions of a common bond between Egypt and other displaced nationals often indicates that “positive and generous conceptions of distributive justice will apply.”61 As discussed earlier, refugees in the broad sense often act as a means to advance a governmental and societal agenda by serving as the ‘other’ for a particular society. The Egyptian government may manipulate public perception of domestic refugee flow for a variety of primarily political reasons, often times using refugee populations as scapegoats, which in turn exacerbates the already intense societal ostracization of these communities. When dealing with refugee populations, the Egyptian government crafts policy delicately, as “Egypt receives refugees primarily from countries with which it has delicate bilateral relationships.”62 Egypt’s reticence in dealing with these populations from neighboring countries directly arises from a concern over the misinterpretation of domestic refugee policy at the international level, fearing “irritants in its foreign policy.”63 Condemnation of refugee communities by the Egyptian !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 60 Kagan, “Frontier Justice: Legal Aid and UNHCR Refugee Status Determination in Egypt,” 49 Milner, 81 62 Kagan, “Shared Responsibility in a New Egypt: A Strategy for Refugee Protection,” 23 63 Ibid 61
  32. 32. ! 26 government often occurs “when the cumulative growth of the encroachers and their doings pass beyond a ‘tolerable point.’”64 Determining a rough threshold (determining a specific threshold proves impossible) at which refugee communities trespass the point of tolerability is a focus of the following chapters, which focus being on three populations respectively. The conditions outlined above affect every refugee within Egypt’s borders, and the following chapters should be understood in this context. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 64 Bayat, Asef. Life As Politics: How Ordinary People Change the Middle East. Stanford, Calif: Stanford University Press, 2010. Print, 62
  33. 33. ! 27 3 The Palestinian Refugee Experience in Egypt This chapter outlines the Palestinian refugee experience in Egypt, an experience of multiple, incongruous narratives that reflects the given state of contemporary Egyptian society at a distinct point. Examination of this experience as one narrative, however, elucidates the intense shifts in Egypt that have occurred over the last seventy years, along with the institutions integral to the refugee experience in the Egypt, including, but not limited to, the media, UNHCR, and the Egyptian government. These geopolitical shifts and actors in the refugee experience are not unique to Egypt’s Palestinian refugee population. Instead, this discourse on the Palestinian refugee’s experience serves as introduction to the factors affecting later mass migrations, the import of which is elucidated in detail over the following two chapters. The Palestinian refugee population within Egypt provides a useful starting point for evaluating the local Egyptian refugee regime, as this population has the longest and perhaps most tumultuous experience as a diaspora in Egypt. Although not a large population (75,000 Palestinians are estimated to currently reside in Egypt65), a Palestinian diaspora has existed within Egyptian borders since the events of 1948, which resulted in the mass exodus of the Palestinian community from the land currently administered by Israel. This chapter aims to avoid advocating for any party in the widely politicized and polarized issue of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, while raising the issue to examine the realities of the current global refugee structure. However, the Palestinian refugee !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 65 El-Abed, El-Abed, Oroub. Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt Since 1948. Beirut, Lebanon: Institute for Palestine Studies, 2009. Print, 1
  34. 34. ! 28 population is indeed intrinsically linked to larger political issues; Palestinian refugees in Egypt recently interviewed by Palestinian refugee researcher Oroub El-Abed “all talked about the effects on them every time wider political relations fluctuated.”66 In fact, for six decades the Palestinian question has remained the central political topic in the Middle East, and for most Arab governments remains an extremely delicate issue. Today, Arab states, many of them host states for Palestinian refugees, must carefully craft their responses to this issue in order to mitigate between the U.S.’s continued support of Israel and broad Arab sympathy for the Palestinian cause, which often results in intra-policy conflict.67 A significant difference between Palestinian refugees and other refugee populations within Egypt must be noted. Unlike every other refugee population residing in Egypt, the Palestinian population is not administered by UNHCR. Furthermore, no special United Nations body exists to administer the Palestinian population in Egypt68 as compared to all other Arab nations where Palestinians fled post-Nakba (the Arabic word for catastrophe, which refers to the 1948 Palestinian exodus).69 National administration of Palestinian refugees in Egypt contrasts greatly with the international organizations present in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. Rather than preventing a comparative approach, this lack of an international body reveals a great deal about Egypt’s refugee policy, a topic that is expounded upon at the end of this chapter. Finally, some scholars have speculated that the Egyptian experience developing its own administration of the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 66 El-Abed, Oroub. “The Palestinians in Egypt: identity, basic rights and host state policies.” Refugee Survey Quarterly, 28 (23), 2009: 531-549, 540-1 67 Kagan, “Shared Responsibility in a New Egypt: A Strategy for Refugee Protection,” 23 68 Brand, Laurie A. Palestinians in the Arab World: Institution Building and the Search for State. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. Print, 3 69 Grabska, “Who Asked them Anyway?,” 26-27
  35. 35. ! 29 Palestinian population may have significantly influenced later Egyptian policy towards new refugee populations flowing into Egypt.70 Governmental administration of the Palestinian diaspora can be identified as having three unique periods, corresponding to the three contemporary Egyptian presidents: Gamal Abdel Nasser, Anwar Sadat, and Hosni Mubarak. These periods do not strictly match with each president’s tenure, as refugee administration does not reinvent itself overnight, instead experiencing gradual shifts. However, the nature of the Egyptian government during these periods allows construction of this broad framework due to intense centralization of power around the Egyptian president. The primacy of the Egyptian president prior to the January 25th revolution (which ended the thirty-year reign of Hosni Mubarak in 2011) largely meant that governmental policies represented the interests of the current ruling regime. In addition, discussion of Egyptian media discourse will prove useful for this examination, as the media lies at the nexus between governmental ideology and public opinion, and “the Egyptian media exert a decisive influence on public opinion in Egypt.”71 Examined through the lens of the Egyptian media, the development and changes in the Egyptian public’s perception of the Palestinian refugee issue is traced throughout this chapter. Before embarking on analysis of these three periods, the policies of Pre-Nasser Egypt deserve a brief outline in order to better understand subsequent developments. Outraged by the expulsion of the Palestinians in al-Nakba, the existing monarchy initially demanded the return of taken land. After a few years, however, the infeasibility (at least in the short-term) of the right of return became clear and the monarchy revised its policy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 70 Zohry, “Egypt: Immigration to Egypt,” 47 Yehia, Karem. “The Image of the Palestinians in Egypt, 1982–1985”, Journal of Palestine Studies, 16(2), 1987, 62 71
  36. 36. ! 30 to advocate for “a policy of resettlement in the states where the refugees now find themselves,”72 obviously including Egypt. In other words, the government tacitly accepted the policy of Palestinian settlement in host states, a policy that has evolved over the last sixty years. King Farouk, the Egyptian monarch overthrown by the 1952 Free Officers’ Revolution, and his regime’s expectations seem to have been unrealistic as to what exactly settlement in host states entailed, especially in regards to Palestinians crossing the border into Egypt. The monarchy hoped that the Palestinian population would settle in the liminal territory of the Gaza Strip (possibly including Sinai) rather than in Egypt proper; a New York Times article from this period postulated “that Egypt had placed a ‘virtual veto on moving the refugees from the Gaza strip.’”73 Significant efforts were made to resettle the Palestinian diaspora in the Sinai desert, but this plan did not come to fruition. The failure of this resettlement, which was a joint Egypt-UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) effort, known as the Sinai project, significantly contributed to the lack of a United Nations organizational body in Egypt.74 Regardless, Palestinians in Egypt still enjoyed basic rights including access to education and the ability to work.75 The Nasser Era After al-Nakba, Palestinians refugees generally enjoyed many privileges including the right to education, property, and in some cases Egyptian citizenship. Gamal Abdel Nasser continued the policy of the overthrown monarchy, and Palestinian refugees !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 72 Schechtman. The Arab Refugee Problem. New York: Philosophical Library, 1952. Print, 64 Schechtman, 86 74 Rosenfeld, Maya. “From Emergency Relief Assistance to Human Development and Back: UNRWA and the Palestinian Refugees, 1950-2009.” Refugee Survey Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 2-3 (2009): 286-317, 296 75 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 106 73
  37. 37. ! 31 still possessed “special legal status whereby its members were treated like Egyptian nationals in most domains.”76 In fact, the Palestinian cause may have indirectly paved the road for his ascent to power: The defeat in Palestine and its perceived relation to the need for social and political change in Egyptian society provided much of the grounding for the Free Officers … the image of a progressive, egalitarian, and independent regime committed to the destiny of the Arabs – an image that the revolution’s propagandists were only too eager to propagate – was very appealing to Arabs who felt themselves victimized by the West [and] their own regimes.77 Nasser himself acknowledges this in his “Philosophy of the Revolution,” which outlined Nasserist ideology: “Palestine was a significant, not just a peripheral factor, in galvanizing the free officers to act.”78 By rooting his rule in the Palestinian issue, Nasser assured himself legitimacy in the eyes of the Arab masses. Here, one can glean the importance of public opinion in the creation of host state policies towards refugee populations. The perception of Nasser as staunch defender of the Palestinian cause ingratiated himself so strongly with the Egyptian and broader Arab public that, upon Egypt’s complete and utter defeat in the Six-Day War and Nasser’s subsequent resignation Egyptians took to the streets pleading for him to remain in office, and Nasser yielded to the public’s appeal.79 This event provides a clear example of public opinion’s influence on host state policy, which exists throughout the Palestinian experience in Egypt. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 76 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 1 Miller, Aaron D. The Arab States and the Palestine Question: Between Ideology and Self-Interest. New York: Published with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. Praeger, 1986. Print, 60 78 Hudson, Michael C. Arab Politics: The Search for Legitimacy. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977. Print, 240 79 Tignor, Robert L. Egypt: A Short History. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010. Print, 273-4 77
  38. 38. ! 32 Although Nasser famously embraced the Palestinian issue, this integration of the Palestinian cause into Egyptian nationalistic ideology appears less rooted in actual concern for the well being of refugees and more founded in an attempt to establish Egypt as the political leader of the Arab world. Widespread sympathy for the Palestinian cause made it the perfect vehicle with which to advance “his larger political aims, both in terms of advancing his pan-Arab agenda and strengthening his hand vis-à-vis the other Arab states.”80 To this end, Nasser succeeded as politics in the Middle East largely revolved around Egypt during this period, and the Palestine issue provided the perfect political means to both “counter Syrian and Jordanian influence” and “rid the area of colonialism.”81 Nasser’s ideological embrace of the Palestinian refugee problem, however, far outlasted Nasser’s reign, significantly influencing Egypt’s position in regards to Palestinian issue even today, decades after Nasser’s death.82 The centrality of the Palestine refugee problem as part of Nasser’s ideology, may, in fact, have arisen from the relatively small number of Palestinian refugees in Egypt: “the very ‘marginality’ of the local Palestinian population … made Nasser’s enthusiastic support of Palestinian possible, because the community was too small to pose any kind of threat.”83 In contrast, any political actions made by the far larger Palestinian community in Gaza, were “from the outset … closely monitored by Egyptian intelligence and sharply curtailed.”84 On the other hand, the Egyptian government comfortably settled Palestinians who aided Egyptian military operations against Israel.85 Some have claimed !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 80 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 129 Miller, 60-61 82 Miller, 61-62 83 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 127 84 Ibid 85 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 181 81
  39. 39. ! 33 that his pro-Palestinian stance completely arose from larger political intentions,86 yet the fact that this stance had tangible benefits for the Palestinian refugee community cannot be ignored. The matter of disingenuous political motives creating real improvements in the livelihoods of refugee communities is examined further in the final chapter. Nasser’s discomfort at the prospect of powerful Palestinian political parties in Egypt reinforced the notion that this position was a façade for a larger political motive, namely to cement Egypt’s as the regional leader in the Middle East. This position held great import due to the geopolitical significance of the Middle East, especially Egypt in the wake of the Suez Crisis, for the two superpowers of the time, the United States of America and the Soviet Union. Thus, the domestic administration of the Palestinian issue only carried importance for Nasser vis-à-vis its importance at the global level. Aaron David Miller, a prominent scholar on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, aptly describes Nasser’s hopes: “Egypt … would probably have been far more comfortable with the Palestine issue as an abstract symbol than with the reality of an independent Palestinian movement.”87 Thus, Nasser must have been severely dismayed at the Palestinian factions within Egypt that became the focal point for Palestinian political action. The centrality of Egypt as a center for the development of Palestinian nationalistic forces cannot be overstated: “A student union at Cairo University … was founded in 1950 by a young, clean-shaven engineering student who had fought in the Palestine War of 1947-1949 and was later to become known as Yasser ‘Arafat,”88 who would emerge as the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and for many symbolized the Palestinian struggles of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 86 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 42 Miller, 4 88 Khalidi, Rashid. Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. Print, 180 87
  40. 40. ! 34 the twentieth century.89 The Palestinian political developments did not have the full support of the Egyptian government, which feared the growing power of these fledgling groups. This resistance to refugee political developments displays Egypt’s toleration of refugee activism only up until a certain point. Importantly, the Egyptian government’s tendency to oppose, from its perspective, an ‘overpoliticization’ of refugee communities exists in almost every historical relationship between the Egyptian government and refugee communities. The significance of Egypt’s resistance to refugee political action, and its importance for refugee advocacy in host states, is expanded upon in the final chapter. In an unforeseen consequence, Nasser’s ideological rhetoric championing the Palestinian cause may have been a significant factor leading to the development of these strong political forces as “the gap between rhetoric and action only reinforces tension between conservative Arab states fearful of radical changes in the status quo and a Palestinian movement determined to alter it.”90 Nasser did not hesitate in responding swiftly to these political groups, for example shuttering the PLO radio station broadcasting out of Cairo after the station broadcasted a critique of the Egyptian president.91 Furthermore, “unlike Syria or Jordan, Nasser never permitted the Palestinians to use Egypt as a sanctuary for attacks against Israel.”92 Clearly, Nasser tolerated the refugee community as long as they refrained from meddling in Egypt’s political affairs, which were solely the domain of the Egyptian government. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 89 Kamrava, Mehran. The Modern Middle East: A Political History Since the First World War. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011. Print, 122 90 Miller, 6 91 Brand, 57 92 Miller, 89
  41. 41. ! 35 On the other hand, the resistance to the notion of Palestinian self-governance may have arisen from the Arab League members’ - especially Egypt’s - perception that the Palestinian issue would soon be resolved through political means. Although founded in the late 1950s, the Arab states did not allow Fateh (the largest political party in the PLO) to gain any real power: “Fateh’s idea of self-organized Palestinian resistance policy did not appeal to the Pan-Arab Palestinians, who were convinced they were on the brink of liberating Palestine.”93 Efforts to prevent the development of autonomous Palestinian institutions focused on allowing the development of institutions whose leaders supported the efforts of the leading Arab states, mainly Syria and Egypt. Palestinian frustration, the ineffectiveness of Nasserist ideology, and the failure to liberate any Palestinian lands, however, drove refugees to begin forming organizations independent of any state influence. In fact, the Palestinian experience in Egypt largely cemented the two fundamental aspects of Palestinian identity: Return and Resistance.94 Since al-Nakba, Palestinian identity evolved to reflect these two central desires. The desired return of Palestinian refugees to the land currently occupied by Israel, often referred to as the ‘right of return,’ remains the central demand of most Palestinian political organizations, many of which engage in resistance against Israel with an aim to achieve return. The emergence of a distinct Palestinian identity occurred directly in response to the non-enfranchisement of Palestinians in Egypt, as Nasserist discourse often “emphasize[d] the preservation of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 93 Dajani, Mana Ahmed. The Institutionalization of Palestinian Identity in Egypt. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1986. Print, 21 94 Dajani, 2
  42. 42. ! 36 Palestinian identity by maintaining their status as refugees.”95 By refusing to integrate Palestinian refugees into Egyptian society, through extension of citizenship or other means, the Egyptian government galvanized the Palestinian community to construct their own national identity. Palestinian identity, rooted in the community’s refugee status, became intrinsically tied to Palestinian land, effectively ending any significant movement to gain Egyptian citizenship for Palestinian refugees. In other words, return and resistance had become intertwined. Palestinians resisted in order to return to their land; anything short of return, including nationalization in a host country such as Egypt, logically implied a continued resistance. Yet, importantly, even during Nasser’s reign, divisions began to be drawn within the Palestinian refugee population, as evidenced by different Refugee Status Determination (RSD) procedures for those who arrived in the two decades after al-Nakba and post-1967 refugees: For Palestinians who arrived in Egypt before 1967 (and their offspring and descendants), permits are issued by the Department of Immigration, Passports, and Nationality … for those who arrived during or after the 1967 war (mainly from Gaza) and their offspring and descendants, the permits are issued by the [Administrative Office of the Governor of Gaza].96 This act established a precedent for the Egyptian government’s distinct policies towards different refugee communities, a phenomenon later continued and expanded, especially after the arrival of new refugee communities as discussed in the following two chapters. Today, the Egyptian government currently administers Palestinian refugees separately from any other refugee population: “Palestinian refugees are regulated by a separate !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 95 Shiblak, Abbas. “Residency Status and Civil Rights of Palestinian Refugees in Arab Countries,” Journal of Palestine Studies , Vol. 25, No. 3 (Spring, 1996), 36-45, 38 96 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 79
  43. 43. ! 37 office. When they apply for residence permits their cases are treated separately by the interior ministry.”97 Chapter 6 elucidates the importance of these distinctions in crafting effective refugee advocacy for populations in host states. The Sadat Era Following Nasser’s death in 1970, Anwar Sadat ascended to power in Egypt, ushering in a new era for Egypt and the local refugee community. During Sadat’s tenure as Egyptian president, tumultuous events, outlined in detail below, led to a severe shift in Egyptian administration of Palestinian refugees, from a policy of general tolerance and equal rights to a strong rebuke of the Palestinian cause and population. Sadat initially continued Nasser’s pro-Palestinian policy, passing “Egyptian Law 58” his first year in office, which gave “Palestinian workers with permanent residence status” exemption “from having to acquire work permits.”98 From the beginning of his reign, however, Sadat indicated that the Palestinian issue was no longer a central tenet of Egyptian ideology. The Palestinian issue, however, did not directly cause this shift; the change instead arose from Sadat’s desire for stability in the region. Sadat’s interest in creating regional order dictated some resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue, as this issue remained at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the origin of the Middle East’s enduring instability. Upon assumption of power, Sadat had two opposing means to resolve the Palestinian refugee question: (i) liberation, which required attaining significant land concessions from Israel on the Palestinian’s behalf, or (ii) repression, which removed the Palestinian question from the political arena by means of heavyhanded control of the refugee population in Egypt. At the beginning of his tenure, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 97 Zohry, Ayman. “Immigration to Egypt.” Journal of Immigrant and Refugee Studies, 4(3), 33-54, 47 98 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 133
  44. 44. ! 38 Sadat’s strategy remained unclear; but an examination of his reign reveals his decisive support of the latter approach, for a number of reasons worth expounding upon. There was significant unrest from the Palestinian community in Egypt in the preSadat years, which, along with a drastic increase in the Palestinian population, influenced the heavy-handed manner in which Sadat engaged the Palestinian issue. Firstly, in the years before Sadat’s reign, mass demonstrations of Palestinian students occurred in the two major Egyptian cities and “thousands of students from both Cairo and Alexandria universities … participated in the unrest.”99 These demonstrations arose from the failure of Nasserism to secure liberation for the Palestinian people, a marked shift in the Palestinian community’s relationship with the ruling regime. Secondly, the Six-Day War in 1967 created a much larger Palestinian community, as “members of the Gaza police and the Palestinian Liberation Army retreated together, which doubled the number of Palestinians in Egypt.”100 The increase in population from 15,000 to 30,000 further burdened the Egyptian government and increased the visibility of the Palestinian refugee population.101 Thirdly, from the years 1969 to 1971, Egypt and Israel engaged in an unofficial war known as the ‘War of Attrition,’ over military installations in the Suez region, and further public demonstrations accompanied this engagement.102 Although militarily engaged with Israel, Egypt could not fulfill the fundamental desire of Palestinians, the right of return, through armed conflict, a fact that spurred further Palestinian unrest. Lastly, the assassination of Jordanian Prime Minister Wasfi al-Tal in Cairo by the newly-formed militant Palestinian group Black September (most famous for !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 99 Brand, 80 Schulz, Helena L, and Juliane Hammer. The Palestinian Diaspora: Formation of Identities and Politics of Homeland. London: Routledge, 2003. Print, 63 101 Brand, 46 102 Brand, 81 100
  45. 45. ! 39 the massacre of eleven Israeli athletes during the 1972 Munich Olympics) forced Sadat to confront the increasingly militant Palestinian factions, which Nasser’s pro-Palestinian ideology had ironically helped foster. The cumulative effect of these events drove Sadat to institute increasingly draconian measures intended to “clamp down more forcefully on … activism, particularly among Palestinians.”103 Sadat understood that this Palestinian unrest would not cease without a resolution of the ‘Palestinian question,’ and he began to pursue a solution to the refugee crisis, although not in the manner desire by the Palestinian community. Thus, Palestinian militancy, rather than achieving its goal of Palestinian statehood, counteractively led to intense political setbacks for the Palestinian community, which lost the political support of Egypt, its largest ally in the international arena. Soon, Egyptian government ideology began to reflect Sadat’s new position on the Palestinian issue: “the Sadat regime propagated the slogan ‘Egypt first, Egypt always’ and a related theme, mainly that the Egyptians had made enormous sacrifices for the … Palestinian causes … these Egyptian sacrifices, the argument continued, were only met with ungratefulness.”104 In its crusade on behalf of the Palestinian population, Egypt managed to lose perhaps its most crucial land, the Sinai Peninsula and the Suez Canal, and Sadat remained determined to restore this land to Egyptian sovereignty.105 Furthermore, just as the Egyptian media espoused Nasserism’s pro-Palestinian rhetoric during Nasser’s tenure, Sadat’s political rebuke of Palestinian refugees was soon reflected in the Egyptian in the media. In the turbulent years after Sinai II, the first Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, “there was an increase in negative press coverage that !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 103 Brand, 83 Dajani, 31 105 Miller, 65 104
  46. 46. ! 40 tended to promote what may be called the image of the ‘Bad Palestinian.’”106 Sadat’s political machinations demonstrated a reformed position on the Palestinian issue; the only question remaining was what effect would Sadat’s policies have on the refugee community in Egypt. In tandem with ideological changes, Sadat’s political actions aimed to foster regional stability, culminating with the signing of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty during the Camp David Accords in 1978. During Nasser’s reign, Egypt gained prestige in the Middle East as the staunch defender of the Palestinian people; in contrast, Sadat attempted to establish Egypt as the leading Arab nation for the broader globalized society by abdicating responsibility for the Palestinian diaspora in favor of regional stability. The decisive event that signaled this shift to the local Palestinian community occurred when “Sadat addressed a session of the People’s Assembly on November 9, 1977 – a session that he had expressly invited Yasir ‘Arafat to attend – and announced his intention to go to Jerusalem,” publicly embarrassing Arafat.107 The political relationship between Egypt and the broader Arab world disintegrated even further, leading to Egypt’s decade-long expulsion from the Arab League, while the global prestige of Egypt under Sadat, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978 for his peace efforts, continued to rise. Sadat, for the most part, succeeded in his political aims, and Egypt became integrated into the new globalized society: “The Egyptian-Israeli peace process and the political and economic cooperation it set in motion were realized within a wider ideological and political framework that, in effect, articulated the new hegemonic project !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 106 107 Yehia, 46 Brand, 60
  47. 47. ! 41 of the Egyptian regime.”108 Egypt’s integration into the globalized economy further alienated Egypt from the Palestinian issue and “the spread of consumer society values … and a greater reliance on the central government have reinforced the isolationist and individualistic orientation of the Egyptians,”109 undermining any idea of pan-Arabism, the root of Egyptian support for the Palestinian cause. The Egyptian government and Palestinian political factions soon came into conflict: “The breaking point came in November 1977, when Sadat journeyed to Jerusalem. Anger among Palestinian students exploded in anti-Sadat demonstrations.”110 Things devolved even further and, “with the final signing of the Camp David accords in March 1979, the PLO ‘froze’ its relations with Egypt.”111 Although at a historical nadir, the relationship between Sadat and the PLO never reached a full break: “Sadat would never formally renounce Egypt’s support for the PLO and even maintained contact with the PLO representative long after the signing of the peace treaty.”112 The start of the Israeli-Egyptian peace process did not mean the end for the privileges of Palestinian refugees in Egypt, who continued to enjoy access to social services. Even after Sadat’s intention to exit from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian refugees in Egypt experienced no tangible effects of this change in policy; “The signing of the Sinai II disengagement agreement in September 1975, which effectively confirmed Egypt’s withdrawal from the front[,] led to a brief strain in PLO- !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 108 !Shukrallah, Hani. “The Street Reacts to Operation Defensive Shield: Snapshots from the Middle East” Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 31, no. 4 (Summer 2002), 44-65, 48 109 Yehia, 49 110 Brand, 83 111 Brand, 62 112 Miller, 92
  48. 48. ! 42 Egyptian ties, but it had no real effect on the community in Egypt.”113 In fact, the special legal status of Palestinian refugees in Egypt remained in place until the violent murder of journalist and close associate of Sadat, Yusuf al-Siba’i114 in February 1978.115 Palestinian militants kidnapped and murdered Al-Siba’i in Cyprus, attempted to hijack a plane, and killed Egyptian commandos sent to rescue the Egyptian national.116 Importantly, actions of rogue members of the Palestinian refugee community, unsupported by Palestinian political organizations such as the PLO who deplored the act of violence, had widespread implications for the broader Palestinian refugee community.117 Soon, Palestinians in Egypt experienced drastic changes directly resulting from this event: “as a corollary [to al-Siba’i’s murder], many of the privileges that Palestinians in Egypt had enjoyed since the 1950s and early 1960s were gradually reviewed and cancelled;”118 economic, property, and education rights became scarce for the Palestinian community in Egypt. Some claim, however, that al-Siba’i’s murder merely served as the justification for the policy change, which was actually rooted in the Egyptian-Israeli peace process.119 Using acts of violence perpetrated by local refugee communities as justification for repression of the greater community has clear parallels in the Egyptian government’s relationship with every single refugee community; these parallels is explicated in the following two chapters. The effects of this sudden change from acceptance to repression cannot be overstated. This account from a Palestinian shopkeeper reflects a common sentiment !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 113 Brand, 60-61 Mattar, Philip. Encyclopedia of the Palestinians. New York: Facts on File, 2000. Print, 143 115 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 73 116 Brand, 61 117 Ibid 118 Ibid 119 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 2 114
  49. 49. ! 43 found among Palestinians in Egypt: “There were hard moments for us [after al-Siba’i was killed], when our treatment by Egyptians and the Egyptian administration changed … We, Palestinians, were afraid. We used to sit in our closed shops to watch news and avoid harassment from the Egyptians.”120 Changes included a significant increase in security measures intended to harass the Palestinian community, which was “singl[ed] out for surveillance.”121 Constant harassment severely affected the cohesion of the Palestinian community in Egypt, and “left its effects on the population[,] specifically the way people tend to be suspicious of one another.”122 In addition to repression of the Palestinian community, the Egyptian government began systematically dismantling the Palestinian political institutions established in the heyday of Nasserism. The violent assassination of Sadat by rogue Egyptian military units, motivated by outrage over the Camp David accords, signaled a new period in the relationship between the Egyptian government and the Palestinian population. The Mubarak Era After Sadat’s assassination in 1981, Hosni Mubarak rose to power, and, as discussed below, an analysis of Mubarak’s policy towards the Palestinian population reveals his attempt to strike a balance between the ideological embrace of Nasserism and the repression of the late-Sadat era. Mubarak understood the dangers of the Palestine issue, which “had become an issue that threatened to diminish rather than enhance Egyptian prestige as it had under Nasser.”123 A turning point, however, in Egyptian policy occurred early in Mubarak’s tenure when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. These !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 120 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 73 Ibid 122 El-Abed, “The Palestinians in Egypt: identity, basic rights and host state policies,” 547 123 Miller, 66 121
  50. 50. ! 44 two events signaled another decisive shift in Egyptian policy; “Sadat’s passing and the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon led both Egyptian popular opinion and official policy to move in a more sympathetic direction.”124 The 1982 Lebanon War drew widespread condemnation from the Arab masses, and Mubarak, in a manner reminiscent of Nasser, once again espoused pro-Palestinian political rhetoric. Again, like Nasser, Mubarak may have seized this opportunity to appear as a defender of the Palestinian cause for political reasons rather than a sincere desire for Palestinian liberation. By appearing as a stalwart champion of the Palestinian people, Mubarak co-opted a central tenet of the Muslim Brotherhood, the political movement that most threatened his grip on power, as the Brotherhood “had a clear commitment to Palestine.”125 Interestingly, the reintroduction of the Palestinian issue in Egyptian governmental discourse was not accompanied by tangible benefits for the Palestinian refugee community as it did during the height of Nasserism. Instead, the primary beneficiaries of Egypt’s reformed political position were the Palestinian political actors. The event signifying the dynamic shift in Egyptian policy occurred early in Mubarak’s reign “when, having just escaped the inter-Palestinian fighting in Tripoli, ‘Arafat and his men passed through the Suez Canal on their way to Yemen and … debarked for a brief televised meeting with President Mubarak.’”126 Moreover, the Egyptian media once again reflected the dominant government ideology; during Mubarak’s tenure, Palestinians were often portrayed as victims rather than resistors, which “reflects the dominant line in the Egyptian media … favor[ing] a peaceful solution over the military option.”127 During !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 124 Brand, 93 Brand, 16 126 Brand, 62-63 127 Yehia, 62 125
  51. 51. ! 45 this time, the broader Egyptian public’s relationship with the Palestinian community similarly evolved, although in a manner distinct from that of the government. Mubarak reserved the right to repress the Palestinian community for any reason, such as when “PLO offices were closed in the wake of the April 1987 of Palestinian National Council (the PLO legislature) meeting in Algiers … during which certain statements were made that angered Egypt.”128 Importantly, Mubarak possessed greater power than his predecessors to repress the Palestinian community due to the reinstatement of emergency law in light of Sadat’s assassination. Although continuously in effect since 1967, the emergency law was not used nearly as brazenly by Sadat or Nasser. Mubarak used this power to legitimize any action against perceived domestic unrest: “Using the emergency law, authorities are able to strictly regulate the activities of … the Palestinians, use surveillance, and powers of mass arrest.”129 The domineering, patriarchal nature of the Egypt’s relationship with the Palestinian refugee community cannot be doubted. Yet, during Mubarak’s reign Palestinian political factions experienced a much larger degree of freedom than they had previously, and organizations such as ESCPI, the Egyptian Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian Intifada, were tolerated without much harassment.130 Mubarak’s tolerance of these organizations, a significant break from the policies of Sadat and Nasser, can be attributed to the growing domestic and international support for the Palestinian cause, the starkest increase in Palestinian solidarity since the heyday of Nasserism. Mubarak’s reluctance to fully embrace the Palestinian issue arose from his desire for domestic stability; the memory of the late 1970’s Palestinian student demonstrations !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 128 Brand, 63 El-Abed, “The Palestinians in Egypt: identity, basic rights and host state policies,” 547 130 Shukrallah, 46 129
  52. 52. ! 46 loomed large and “nothing on that scale has been seen since the leftish-led uprising of the … 1970’s.”131 Here, another parallel between the three modern Egyptian presidents can be extrapolated: Nasser achieved Egyptian primacy by embracing the Palestinian cause, Sadat integrated Egypt into the emerging global economy by creating regional stability, and Mubarak elevated Egypt’s global status by creating the perception of Egypt as a domestically tranquil state in an extremely turbulent region. Miller succinctly explains the importance of these parallels: Egypt’s involvement in the affairs of Palestine was to a greater degree than elsewhere a political commitment voluntarily undertaken and fashioned by one man and his era. And it was Egypt’s to redefine this commitment that permitted Sadat and Mubarak to reshape Nasser’s vision according to their conception of state interests.132 In addition to domestic concerns, close ties between Mubarak and the United States put pressure on the Egyptian regime to align itself with America’s interests, indirectly leading to moderate repression of the Palestinian population. To this end, “Mubarak, has left himself considerable room to maneuver on [the Palestine] issue and is not about to undermine the peace treaty with Israel or [the] economic and military benefits of his relationship with the United States for the benefit of the Palestinians.”133 The United States’ strong alliance with Israel also affected Egyptian treatment of Palestinian refugees and “gradual improvement in American-Egyptian relations … witnessed a concomitant deterioration in Egyptian-Palestinian relations.”134 The First Gulf War provides an example of America’s influence on Egyptian policy: “the Egyptian media (with the clear assent of the government, if not at its prompting) seized upon the !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 131 Shukrallah, 45 Miller, 55 133 Miller, 67 134 Brand, 17 132
  53. 53. ! 47 PLO’s statements in support of Saddam and the pro-Saddam demonstrations by Palestinians … to launch another full-blown propaganda assault.”135 These attacks, however, conflicted with the broader Arab public opinion and “Egyptians renewed sense of their Arab identity can be traced, paradoxically, to the most divisive moment in modern Arab history – when their own government had been an enthusiastic partner in the US-led coalition in Iraq.”136 The Egyptian government’s conflicting interests produced an equally conflicted response in governmental discourse: The government’s response was predictably confused as it tried simultaneously to (1) ride the wave of popular outrage by expressing similar if more restrained sentiments; (2) use popular anger as a potential bargaining chip vis-à-vis the United States … [and] (3) paradoxically, use popular anger against a foreign enemy to reinforce authoritarianism by appealing to national unity.137 Up until 2011, the relationship between the Egyptian government and Palestinian refugee community remained stuck between Mubarak’s desire to appear as the new champion of the Arab public, heir to Nasser’s pan-Arabism, and the realities created by Egypt’s alliance with the United States. A number of trends can be extrapolated from this examination of the historical relationship between the Egyptian government and the Palestinian refugee population. Conclusion First, the disjointed policies towards Palestinian refugees do not indicate the existence of a clear threshold for refugee tolerance. Although initially warm to the Palestinian refugee community, the Egyptian government has increasingly repressed the local diaspora, with some exceptions. No exact threshold for host state tolerance can be !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 135 El-Abed, Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948, 50 Shukrallah, 48 137 Ibid 136
  54. 54. ! 48 discerned, as the influential factors are largely dictated by the unique qualities of the refugee population. Host state repression of local refugee communities, however, is almost always preceded by two actions of the refugee community: acts of violence and large-scale political action. Second, for the host state, broader political interests will almost always take precedent over the interests of a local refugee community. This does not mean, however, host states will always repress local refugee communities; when political interests align with the desires of a local refugee community, the community benefits, just as Palestinians did during Nasser’s reign. Third, broad public perception of refugee communities can significantly affect a host state’s response to that community, sometimes overriding the regime’s broader political interests. The implications of these findings for broader refugee policy is discussed at length in Chapter 6.
  55. 55. ! 49 4 3 The Sudanese Refugee Experience in Egypt Historically, of the three refugee populations examined in this study, the Sudanese community in Egypt has arguably endured the harshest conditions. The cause of this marginalization rests with inappropriate and misinformed administrative policies of UNHCR and the Egyptian government. In this sense, the broad Sudanese experience in Egypt demonstrates the dangers of humanitarian assistance, when refugee administration theoretically aimed to protect refugee communities adversely affect them instead. This chapter’s study indicates an urgent need for administrative organizations to consider the possible negative ramifications for refugee communities before implementing new policies, especially in the case of RSD. History of Sudanese Refugee Flow in Egypt Starting with the outbreak of the violent Second Sudanese Civil War two decades ago, refugees from the Sudan began fleeing north to Egypt, seeking refuge from the gross human rights violations that threatened the lives and livelihoods of the millions affected by the lengthy conflict. Sadly, an examination of the Sudanese experience in Cairo indicates a stark failure to ensure the rights of this population, which often encounters numerous obstacles in obtaining basic social services such as access to healthcare. A complex multitude of factors, including ineffective and anachronistic international treaties, the reluctance of UNHCR to act on behalf of this population, and broader geopolitical events combined to create an extremely hostile and dangerous environment. This is best expressed in one refugee’s sentiment that “Egypt has never become the
  56. 56. ! 50 second home [for refugees] but second graveyard for them.”138 This chapter aims to explore the roots of this harsh experience in an attempt to better understand the factors that led to ineffective, at times counteractive, refugee advocacy on behalf of the Sudanese population. As outlined in Chapter 2, UNHCR serves as the primary instrument of refugee administration in Egypt, and can generally be understood to reflect the Egyptian government’s attitude towards refugee populations, due to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 1954 that has not since been updated. The MOU, which authorizes the existence of UNHCR in Egypt, requires the international organization to “cooperate with the governmental authorities in view of undertaking the census of and identifying the refugees eligible under the mandate of the High Commissioner.”139 In theory, this only authorizes UNHCR to complete the process of Refugee Status Determination (RSD), exempting the Egyptian government from its obligations in an attempt to alleviate the heavy societal burdens naturally arising from mass migration movements. In practice, however, the MOU allows the Egyptian government to wield UNHCR’s refugee administration as a geopolitical tool to advance its domestic and international interests. The conflict of interest between UNHCR’s stated mission of humanitarian assistance and the Egyptian government’s domestic concerns almost always leads to the prioritization of the latter at the detriment of the former. In other words, UNHCR cannot uphold its stated mission of providing protection to all refugees residing !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 138 “Sudanese minister condemns Egypt for the killing of refugees,” Sudan Tribune, n.p., 17 Jan. 2006. Web. 1 June 2012. 139 Badawy, 22