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Fleeing war, poverty, African migrants face racism in Egypt

Two Sudanese sisters, Seham and Ekhlas Bashir, were walking their children home from elementary school in a Cairo neighborhood when a group of Egyptian teenagers crowded around them. The boys taunted them, calling them “slave” and other slurs. Then they tried to rip off Ekhlas’ clothes.

An onlooker intervened, scolding the young harassers, and the sisters and their three children managed to escape. But they were shaken.

They had just arrived in Cairo months earlier, fleeing violence in their homeland. The harassment brought up traumatic memories of detention, torture and rape they said they experienced at the hands of militias in Sudan’s Nuba mountains.

“We have come here seeking safety,” said Ekhlas, recounting the incident that took place in November. “But the reality was very different.”

Egypt has for decades been a refuge for sub-Saharan African migrants trying to escape war or poverty. But the streets of Cairo, a metropolis of some 20 million, can bring new dangers in the form of racist harassment or even violence in ways that other significant migrant communities here, such as Libyans and Syrians, don’t face. While other major centers of African migration like Europe have been wrestling with racist violence, Egypt has only made small starts toward addressing the issue.

The U.N.’s International Organization for Migration says Egypt hosts more than 6 million migrants, more than half of them from Sudan and South Sudan, where simmering conflicts continue to displace tens of thousands of people annually. For some, Egypt is a destination and a haven, the closest and easiest country for them to enter. For others, it is a point of transit before attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing to Europe.

In visits to several migrant communities throughout Cairo, at least two dozen sub-Saharan Africans, including four children, told The Associated Press that they have endured racist insults, sexual harassment or other abuses in the past three months.

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The children said they have had rocks and trash thrown at them as they go to or from school. One woman from Ethiopia said neighbors pound on the windows of her family’s home, yelling “slaves” before disappearing into the night.

There are signs that Egypt is starting to recognize and censure racist crimes.

In November, there was a public outcry over a video that went viral showing three Egyptian teenagers bullying a schoolboy from South Sudan.

In the video, taken by mobile phone, the teenagers block the boy’s way, laughing and making fun of his appearance before trying to take his backpack. In the aftermath, police detained the teenagers for a day before their families reached a settlement with the family of the South Sudanese boy, John Manuth.

Weeks later, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi hosted Manuth at a youth forum in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh and made a rare high-level acknowledgement of the problem.

“They are our guests and negative treatment is not acceptable and not allowed,” el-Sissi told the audience.

In 2018, a court sentenced to seven years in prison a man who was known to harass refugees and who beat to death a South Sudanese teacher who had worked in a community-run school for refugees in Cairo.

Refugees and rights workers say the country still has a long way to go.

Reported cases of sexual and gender-based violence against migrants has increased in recent months, according to the IOM. Women and girls are the most effected, but so are vulnerable men and young boys, said Shirley De Leon, a project development officer at the organization. She said that could in part be because of Egypt’s economic strains — “challenges remain and are exacerbated by inflation, eroded income and high youth unemployment.”

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Most migrants live in crowded poorer neighborhoods, where they form insular communities in small, packed apartment buildings. The idea is to protect families and vulnerable new arrivals from abuses.

Racism has roots in Egyptian society. For centuries, Egypt was colonized by Arab, Turkish and European imperial powers. Lighter skin was identified with the elite. Darker-complexioned Egyptians and sub-Saharan Africans have been portrayed as doormen, waiters, and cleaners in films for decades. Some Egyptians still unabashedly address people by their skin color, calling them “black,” “dark,” or “chocolate.” Historically, many have preferred to think of themselves as Arab, rather than African.

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Attia Essawi, an expert on African affairs at Cairo’s al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, says it will take a lot to break some societal beliefs.

“Authorities should be decisive, with more severe measures against racism and bullying,” he said.

But for many, reporting a crime is not an option.

Two South Sudanese women, who work as part-time house cleaners, told the AP they had been sexually assaulted by their employers. Neither of them reported the allegations to police, as one of them has not finalized her documents as a migrant in Egypt and the other feared reprisals from her attacker. For the same reasons, they spoke on condition of anonymity.

Now, they and others say they make sure to be home by nightfall, and only go out in groups.

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El-Sissi has said in the past that his country doesn’t need camps for refugees, because it is welcoming and absorbs them so readily. Many sub-Saharan African migrants enter the country legally but overstay visas. Enforcement on those who stay illegally is lax, and a large number of them work in the huge informal economy as street vendors and house cleaners.

In a café frequented by migrants in a central Cairo neighborhood, Ethiopian refugee Ahmed el-Athiopi says that he came to the city five years ago to escape repression at home. He believes the only reason he has been able to keep a job is because he makes half that of an Egyptian.

For now, though, he says Cairo remains his best available option.

“I hope things get better in the future. Here is much better than in my home country as there is likely a zero chance to leave for Europe,” he said.

(abcnews.go.com)

 

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6 Nigerians deported from India


TWO Nigerians have been deported from India for overstaying their visas, the Delhi Police said on Thursday, bringing to six the total number of Nigerians expelled from the country since the beginning of this year.

According to a statement released on its official Twitter page, the Dwarka Police said the two Nigerians and a Sudanese were arrested and deported by officers from Uttam Nagar Police Station, after they were found to be living in India without valid visas and passports.

“2 #Nigerian Nationals & 1 from #Sudan were found living without having valid #Visa & #Passport during area #Patrolling duty, were deported by the staff of PS Uttam Nagar,” the statement read, using the hashtag #ActionAgainstIllegalStaying.

It was gathered that the two Nigerians recently deported were among 10 Nigerian nationals picked up by the police from the Uttam Nagar in Dwarka district on Wednesday, January 6.

Two Nigerian males were deported from the country on January 13th, 2021, by officers from the Mohan Garden Police Station and another male with one female were deported on January 11 in a similar sting operation by men from Uttam Nagar Police Division.

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The deputy commissioner of police, Dwarka, Santosh Kumr Meena, who confirmed the development, described their action as a gross violation of the Indian visa norms.

“Their visas have also expired but they are continuously staying in India which is a gross violation of the Indian visa norms. They have not provided any suitable reason and supportive documents for their overstay in India,” he said.

Over the years, several Nigerians residing in the country have been arrested and deported. The offences charged against them include illegal stay, internet fraud, online romance scams and drug peddling.

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Biden reverses Trump’s travel ban on Nigeria, Yemen, Eritrea, others

Mr Biden has now nullified the entry ban on citizens from over a dozen countries, including Eritrea, Yemen, Nigeria, and Sudan.

Newly sworn-in American president, Joe Biden, on Wednesday, issued an executive order nullifying a travel ban imposed on citizens of some Muslim-majority countries by his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Before his exit from White House on Wednesday, Mr Trump-led administration was notorious for its harsh policies against immigrants and asylum seekers, one of his many election campaign promises.

He tightened the policies amidst the coronavirus pandemic which rocked the globe, claiming his decision was to protect American populace.

However, Mr Biden, immediately after his inauguration on Wednesday, issued a number of executive orders undoing some of the policies and projects of his predecessor.

Reversals
Mr Biden has now nullified the entry ban on citizens from over a dozen countries, including Nigeria, Eritrea, Yemen, and Sudan.

“There’s no time to waste.

“These are just all starting points,” he said before signing the 17 executive orders in the White House, a statement that connotes the possibility of many more to come.

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Mr Trump’s strict immigration policies have been condemned by leaders and civil groups in the past.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on Wednesday lauded Mr Biden’s decision berating his predecessor’s travel policy a “cruel Muslim ban that targeted Africans.

 

Culled from Premium Times

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Frightened residents brace as Cyclone Eloise approaches Mozambique

IOM is assisting the Government of Mozambique’s preparations for the arrival of Cyclone Eloise, moving people to safety in accommodation centers in Buzi. Photo: IOM 2021

 

Roughly 160 International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff in central Mozambique are working to prepare local communities for the imminent arrival of Cyclone Eloise, which is currently packing winds of at least 150 km/h.

“The people are scared,” said Cesaltino Vilanculo, an IOM Mobile team leader in the provincial capital Beira, who helped hundreds of families evacuate from unsafe temporary settlements to two accommodation centers.

“The water is rising in their zones and people are frightened, bracing for yet another storm.”

Eloise is expected to make landfall in Beira late Friday or early Saturday. By mid-afternoon today shops across the city are closed and flooded streets, empty.

IOM personnel will be ready to respond immediately with specialists in camp coordination and management, shelter, the distribution of non-food items, health and protection services and data mapping under IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).

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The Port of Beira is set to close on Friday for a period of about 40 hours in expectation of dangerous winds and rain from the afternoon of 22 January through the morning of 24 January. Beira is the main entry point for goods bound for north coastal Mozambique.

A limited supply of emergency non-food items had been stockpiled in Beira, including tarps and water tanks. However, resources are stretched, as IOM is actively responding to the crisis across Northern Mozambique.

At the same time, over 900 people are already displaced in Beira City due to recent heavy rains and the impact of Tropical Storm Chalane, which hit nearby Sofala Province on 30 December.

“The government is working, identifying the safe places to bring the people who are most vulnerable,” explained Aida Temba, a protection project assistant with IOM Mozambique.

“The rain is coming, and the water is rising and it’s not easy to reach all the people who need assistance. But we do our best to respond.”

Hundreds of families were evacuated to two accommodation centres, sheltered in tents provided by Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction (INGD). One accommodation center was today closed, in favor of moving families to schools, which provide more stable structure. Those families’ needs include food, potable water, hygiene kits and soap.

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IOM Mozambique also has reported that due to heavy rainfall and the discharge of water from the Chicamba dam and the Mavuzi reservoir—both in the Buzi District west of Beira—over 19,000 people have been affected and hundreds are being moved to accommodation centers. Their needs include food, hygiene kits, and COVID-19 prevention materials.

IOM staff are supporting the Government of Mozambique with the movements in both Beira and Buzi and actively working to improve drainage ways in resettlement sites in preparation for further rains.

IOM’s DTM, working jointly with Mozambique’s INGD, is poised to produce a report on displacement and damages within the first 72 hours of the cyclone’s arrival.

Tropical storms historically are common in these early months of rainy season. Cyclone Idai struck the country in March 2019. It is considered one of the worst tropical cyclones to hit Africa on record, claiming hundreds of lives, and affecting three million people across wide swaths of Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi and Zimbabwe. A second powerful storm, Cyclone Kenneth, hit Mozambique just weeks later.

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Total property damages from Cyclone Idai have been estimated at some USD2.2 billion. Almost two years later, roughly 100,000 people remain in resettlement sites, which also have been battered by the recent rains.

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