Dozens of Sudanese migrants held in Cairo after protests

The killing of a 12-year-old boy sparked calls for justice and action to counter human rights violations of black African refugees in Egypt

Egyptian security forces cairo
Egyptian security forces have been accused by Amnesty International of arresting, beating and imprisoning peaceful protesters. Photograph: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images
Egyptian security forces have been accused by Amnesty International of arresting, beating and imprisoning peaceful protesters. Photograph: Mohamed El-Shahed/AFP/Getty Images
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Last modified on Thu 12 Nov 2020 02.17 EST

Dozens of Sudanese refugees and migrants have been arrested after protests over the murder of a young boy in Cairo.

Amnesty International said about 70 people, including children, were arrested by Egyptian security forces after what it said were two peaceful protests on 29 October.

Amid reports of rising xenophobia and violence towards refugees in Egypt, the demonstrations were sparked by the stabbing of Sudanese 12 year-old Mohamed Hassan. An Egyptian man has been arrested over the killing.

The rights group said security forces dispersed the protests using teargas and water cannon and that some of those arrested were beaten in police custody.

The majority of the detainees were released the next day, but 10 men are still being held by the Egyptian intelligence services without access to lawyers.

A cousin of one of the detainees said: “We are really concerned about them. We don’t know what’s going to happen for them.”

Amnesty said that on 2 November, Egyptian security forces in plainclothes raided the homes and workplaces of at least five Sudanese activists. Others received phone calls, telling them they faced deportion. Several activists have now gone into hiding.

The Public Prosecution Office has dismissed claims of human rights violations against foreign nationals in Egypt.

According to a source working with refugees in Cairo, many opponents of the Sudanese government – particularly those from Darfur and the Nuba mountains – living in Egypt have been imprisoned, tortured and handed over to the Sudanese security forces by Egypt. According to reports on some Arabic websites, Egypt had in return asked Sudan to deport dozens of Muslim Brotherhood leaders to Cairo.

“The Sudanese people who come from African backgrounds such as Nuba, Fur, Zagawa are faced with particular discrimination in Egypt,” said the source. “They are visibly black. While the experience in Egypt of Sudanese who come from Arab backgrounds is relatively better.”

Almost 50,000 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers currently live in Egypt, according to the UN.

A woman from Darfur who was detained after a protest, said living conditions in Egypt were tough. “It’s so difficult being a refugee in Egypt. It’s three times harder than what we left behind in Darfur. Yes there were killings and rapes in Sudan, but here is worse.

“Egypt looks safe from outside, but it’s so bad from inside,” said the 42-year-old.

Of her time in jail she said: “What have we done to deserve all that? They threatened us that we will not see the sun again.”

Elena Habersky, a project manager at Refugee Entitlements in Egypt, said the killing of Mohamed Hassan “struck a nerve” with the Sudanese refugee community.

“His death was a straw that broke the camel’s back with regard to violence faced by Sudanese refugees … It was only logical that protests would ensue from the community to demand justice for the death of young Mohamed, but to also bring to light the difficulties faced, not only by the Sudanese refugee community, but by many African refugees in general.”