Kerryn Williams, Sydney
A protest by Sydney’s Sudanese community and supporters on January 17 at
the Egyptian consulate condemned the killings of dozens of Sudanese
refugees in Cairo on December 30 and demanded that those responsible be
brought to justice.
Several thousand Sudanese refugees had been camping in a park for three
months, calling on the United Nations High Commission for Refugees
(UNHCR) to assist them to resettle in a third country. The killings
occurred when Egyptian police broke up the camp with water cannons and
Ibrahim Nadir from the Australian Sudanese Coptic Welfare Association
told Green Left Weekly that those who were killed simply wanted help
from the UN to migrate. Yet three months ago, the UN ceased financially
assisting the refugees. Now “they don’t know how to live and they don’t
know where to go”.
A refugee from Darfur in Sudan’s west, Mohammed Jaditager, told GLW that
many of those who joined the protest camp in Cairo had escaped from the
conflict in Darfur. “They need protection, but their applications were
refused. The UNHCR said that because of the peace agreement in the south
and the Darfur negotiations Sudan is normal, so you have to go back.”
Mohammed Hussein, who fled Darfur more than two years ago and was in
Cairo during the December attack, has just arrived in Australia. He told
GLW that the UNHCR in Cairo made its assessment that Sudan is safe based
on “exaggerated information” about last year’s north-south peace
agreement. He cited the “absence of infrastructure and services” and the
extensive landmines littered across southern Sudan.
According to Jaditager, at 4am on December 30 the refugees were “hosed
with cold water, then hot water, then beaten with sticks”. He explained
that some were killed or injured in the crush as people fled the police
They were rounded up into buses and taken to detention centres.
“Families were split up and people’s ID papers were destroyed”,
Jaditager said. He added that the protest action in Sydney was “for them
— and to tell the Australian people we are not happy with what happened
to our families”.
Hussein said the official death toll is 26, but the real figure is
closer to 76. He has heard that bodies were stolen from the hospital and
that some people still haven’t located relatives.
“Many were released in the street with nothing, not even shoes”, Hussein
said. It is the middle of winter in Egypt. “Human rights groups are
trying to help, but the conditions are very bad. Hundreds are starving”,
Safi Hareer from the Sudanese Darfurian Union of Australia told GLW that
“the Egyptian government and the UN are responsible” for the killings.
“It’s not safe in Egypt. The government still kills them and the UN
doesn’t protect refugees. The UN supports governments, not the people.”
He called for those who killed the refugees to be charged and for
Australia’s department of immigration to issue more visas for refugees
A delegation from the protest met with consulate staff and delivered a
statement demanding justice. The staff promised to forward the letter to
the Egyptian government and apologised for the killings, arguing that
the police, not the government, were responsible.
From Green Left Weekly, January 25, 2006.