Urban Refugees in Cairo
Cairo, Egypt is home to one of the largest populations of urban refugees in the world. In recent decades, waves of refugees from Sudan, Iraq, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Palestine and elsewhere have fled to Cairo hoping to find third country resettlement, eventually return to their countries of origin, or start a new life by integrating into Egyptian society. For all of these refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the primary institution responsible for determining refugees’ status, offering protection, and facilitating durable solutions.
Despite the many efforts of UNHCR, the Government of Egypt, and numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to provide protection and assistance for these various refugee populations in Cairo, numerous challenges remain for these refugees in the areas of legal protection and security, livelihoods, education, and healthcare.
UNHCR has adopted various strategies over the years to better respond to refugees’ needs. One major initiative was UNHCR’s 1997 Policy Statement on Refugees in Urban Areas, which stressed self-reliance for urban refugees. In 2009, UNHCR issued a new policy on urban refugees aimed at increasing protection for refugees in cities and at mainstreaming refugees into national institutions when possible. This report seeks to provide a preliminary evaluation of the impact of the new 2009 policy while undertaking a comparative analysis of the differing needs, experiences, and protection gaps of Cairo’s many different refugee populations.
Our study is based on household interviews with both refugee and local Egyptian populations, conducted in Cairo between December 2010 and March 2011. Our research team conducted 63 household interviews, distributed across target populations: 49 per cent Iraqi refugee households, 22 per cent African refugee households, 32 per cent local Egyptian households. Refugee or local Egyptian research assistants trained and supervised by an on-the-ground team member conducted all household interviews. Households were asked open-ended questions about their past and present experiences with safety, livelihoods, education, and health; respondents interviewed after the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011 were asked additional questions about the impact of the revolution on their security and ability to access basic services. Interviews were translated and analyzed by our research team in Washington, DC.
In addition, our team conducted extensive interviews with 16 stakeholders in Cairo, including with UNHCR, international NGOs, Egyptian NGOs, and local communitybased organizations. These stakeholders represent the main NGO-based refugee service providers.