Cablegate: Iraqis in Egypt Face Challenges Obtaining

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1. (SBU) Summary: Iraqis in Egypt are finding it difficult
to obtain education, health services and job opportunities.
More established Iraqi residents are depleting their savings,
and newer arrivals are less wealthy than their predecessors.
Although the GOE is publicly committed to providing
education, health and housing services to the approximately
150,000 Iraqis in Egypt, Iraqis say that GOE restrictions on
public services, especially education and health, are having
a negative impact as more Iraqis continue to arrive.
Egyptians, on the other hand, say that resentment towards
Iraqis is building over competition in a tight domestic job
market and rising real estate prices partially attributable
to Iraqi demand for housing. MFA contacts argue that Iraqis
in Egypt do not face hardships beyond those that Egyptians
face, and thus do not deserve "extra" services from the
government. End summary.

Who Are Iraqis In Egypt?

2. (SBU) Initially, the Iraqis who began coming to Egypt to
escape a deteriorating security situation were relatively
wealthy, according to UNHCR/Cairo. They were able to buy
property in Egypt, which under Egyptian law gives them local
residency status, allowing them to work and enroll their
children in Egyptian public schools. Although public health
care is reserved for Egyptians, Iraqis were wealthy enough to
obtain care at private facilities.

3. (SBU) As the conflict in Iraq has continued, however,
newer arrivals are often less wealthy, and those who have
been in Egypt for several years have begun to deplete their
funds, according to Barbara Harrel, professor of Forced
Migration and Refugees Studies at the American University in
Cairo (AUC). Harrel told Pol LES, and UNHCR confirmed, that
these newer arrivals are increasingly registering with UNHCR
to obtain refugee status. Although this does not allow them
to work, it does allow them to enroll their children in
Egyptian public schools. However, of an estimated 150,000
Iraqis in Egypt, UNHCR has registered only approximately
10,000. (Note: The MFA estimates the number of Iraqi
refugees as between 40,000 and 50,000. End note.)

In Practice, Barriers to Education

4. (SBU) Ray Jureidini, AUC Professor of Refugee Studies,
told pol LES that access to education is the biggest concern
for Iraqis in Egypt. UNHCR unofficially estimates that
30,000 Iraqi primary- secondary- and university-aged students
are seeking education in a system struggling to accommodate
even Egyptian student enrollment. Only 800 Iraqis are
enrolled in Egyptian public schools, and only 4000 in
private, primary and secondary schools, according to MFA
Deputy Assistant Minister for Arab Affairs Hany Khallaf and
Assistant Minister for Refugees Tarek El Maaty. Although
Iraqis can attend public schools if they have Egyptian
citizenship or UNHCR refugee status, Iraqi parents told pol
LES that in practice their children are often rejected to
make room for Egyptian students. Private schools, on the
other hand, are wary of enrolling Iraqis for fear they might
not be able to pay, according to a teacher at a private Cairo
secondary school. At the university level, non-Egyptians pay
between LE 2820 (USD 500) and LE 8460 (USD 1500) a year to
attend public universities that charge Egyptians a mere LE
100 (USD 18), although an explosion of private universities
in Egypt has made university education more accessible to the

5. (SBU) Religious differences are also creating barriers to
education. Shiite Iraqi parents complain that Islamic
studies, obligatory through high school, are taught only from
the Sunni perspective. They also say that Egyptian schools
do not allocate special prayer areas for Shiites.
Highlighting this issue, the GOE refused to give permission
when approximately 7000 Iraqi Shiites requested to build a
Shiite Mosque in 6 of October City last June, according to
local press. Iraqis reportedly based their request on
Article 46 of the Egyptian Constitution, which states that
"the state shall guarantee the freedom of belief and the
freedom of practice of religious rites."


6. (SBU) The government provides free public health insurance

CAIRO 00002805 002 OF 002

for Egyptian nationals; foreigners in Egypt must obtain
private insurance and cannot go to public Egyptian hospitals
except in emergencies. One Iraqi bakery owner complained
that private clinics are very expensive for Iraqis in Cairo;
in comparison to LE 10 (USD 1.80) per check-up at a public
clinic, even a basic physical at a private clinic costs on
average 30 LE (USD 5.30).

Egyptians Annoyed at Iraqi Influx

7. (SBU) Anecdotal information indicates that some Egyptians
are resentful about increasing competition for jobs and
housing from Iraqis. Unemployment in Egypt remains high, and
Egyptian engineers, technicians, and grocers have told us
that a continuing influx of Iraqis is further straining the
labor market. Although only Iraqis with local residency
status can work officially, in practice anyone can work in
Egypt's large informal economy. Iraqi university students
told Pol LES that they will work for "half a salary" if it
helps them to stay in Egypt. Regarding housing, a Cairo
private contractor and real estate professional opined that
Egyptian homebuyers are resentful over the perception that
Iraqis, living mostly in middle-class Cairo neighborhoods,
have contributed to higher real estate prices.

Official Egyptian Response: It's Not So Bad

8. (SBU) El Maaty contended that Iraqis in Egypt do not face
hardships beyond those of ordinary Egyptians, and thus the
GOE need not provide them special services. Khallaf told
local press that the GOE currently has no plans to ask the
international community for financial assistance for Iraqi
refugees. Though providing little in services, Egypt has
made it a practice not to deport unregistered Iraqis,
according to Jureidini and UNHCR/Cairo, and instead regularly
refers them to UNHCR for help and to issue them refugee
cards. UNHCR/Cairo also automatically renews the nine-month
term of refugee status for all Iraqis in Egypt registered
with UNHCR.

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