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Darfuris in Cairo

Illegal refugees from Darfur live in the outskirts of the Egyptian capital, in lower-class apartment complexes near factories.

Their live  in Egypt is harsh and they feel at once grateful and guilty just to be alive.

Millions in Egypt and the world over watched as heart-rending images of the horrors taking place in Darfur were broadcast. But perhaps those who are most keen to follow events are the refugees who managed to escape from Darfur, thousands of whom are now in Egypt. For them, what continues to happen in Sudan is a reality experienced first hand, one which will be forever engraved in their minds and hearts.

One would tend to believe that the Darfuris who managed to escape the war zone are able to start a new and better life with the help of the international community and the United Nations. The reality in Egypt is very different.

Abdel Salam, interviewed in Cairo describes his situation as hopeless: “‘I am 21 years old. After both my parents were killed in Darfur I decided to come to Cairo to start a new life. I quickly realized that the situation for Darfuris in Egypt was in fact worse than in Sudan. As we are not allowed to legally work here, we sneak in polluted industrial dumps, rummaging in trash for steel to sell. We make around 15 Pounds a day when rent is over 400 Pounds per month. It is considered an illegal activity: some of us got caught and sent to jail, accused of stealing public Egyptian property. We inhale chemicals while digging in this trash, we get sick but can’t afford medical support. I have been waiting for the refugee status for three years, but the UNHCR doesn’t help Darfuri in Egypt with nothing. If I had money I would try to escape to Israel to get a real job; Bedouin smugglers take $400 dollars per person to help you cross the border, it is a matter of finding the money and also of not being killed by the Egyptian police at the frontier. I am worried for our children, with no money to send them to school, I wonder which kind of future they will have?”