Cablegate: Sudanese in Egypt Turn to Gang Violence


DE RUEHEG #3516 3511518
R 171518Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: 2006 Cairo 170

1. Summary: Sudanese gang violence has become a problem of
increasing concern in Cairo. Gang members are Sudanese youths who
face poor economic prospects in Egypt, are unwilling to return to
worse prospects in Sudan, and are less able to resettle in third
countries following the 2005 peace agreement between North and South
Sudan. Gang violence is mostly directed at third-country,
marginalized Africans or between gangs themselves, as Egyptian
police tend to look the other way as long as violence does not
impact Egyptian citizens.

Sudanese in Gangs Poor, Have Few Prospects

2. Sudanese gangs comprise mainly uneducated and poor Sudanese men
between 16 and 35 years old. As of November 12 there were 500 to 600
members of these gangs based in the Maadi, Ain Shams, Nasr City and
Abbaseya districts of Cairo, according to Boutros Agot, Director of
the Cairo-based Serving the Refugees and Community Organization.
Sudanese who have joined gangs are mainly from marginalized areas in
Sudan, including Darfur, the Nubia Mountains, and Southern Sudan
according to Jaafar Salem, a researcher at the Forced Migration and
Refugee Studies Center (FMRS) at the American University in Cairo
(AUC). Agot told us that Sudanese gang violence is on the rise due
to the lack of education and employment prospects, poverty, and
absence of necessity services for Sudanese in Egypt.

3. The 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA)
between North and South Sudan was a turning point for Sudanese in
Egypt. With the end of hostilities, UNHCR/Cairo began giving South
Sudanese asylum-seeker, rather than refugee, status. In practice,
this removed the possibility of resettlement in a third country for
these Sudanese, who were faced with poor prospects in Egypt or even
worse situations returning to Sudan. Sudanese youth thus began
turning to violence in the streets of Cairo, according to Abeer
Etefa, Senior Regional Global Public Information Officer at the
UNHCR Cairo Bureau. The change in UNHCR resettlement policy was the
reason behind a late 2005 Sudanese sit-in outside the UNHCR office
in downtown Cairo, which was violently dispersed by Egyptian police,
with about 30 refugee fatalities. (reftel).

Gangs Attack Africans, Each Other

4. Sudanese gangs in Cairo target other marginalized Africans, such
as Somalis, Nigerians and people from the Comoros Islands, according
to Salem. For instance, a recent report by the Serving the Refugees
and Community Organization reported that Sudanese gangs in Cairo
attacked Somalis 22 times during the month of Ramadan in 2007 (from
mid-September 2007 to mid-October 2007). Agot told us that the
illegal status of many marginalized Africans in Cairo prevents them
from going to the police to report violence, for fear they would be
deported for illegal residence in Egypt. Inter-gang fights also
sometimes occur, said Salem. In one such incident in June 2007,
which was widely reported in local press, a Sudanese was killed near
the AUC campus in downtown Cairo during a fight between two Sudanese
gangs over a girl.

Gangs Prompt Little Egyptian Police Response

5. Our contacts tell us that a de facto agreement has developed
between Sudanese gangs and the Egyptian police, in which the gangs
do not attack Egyptians and the police mostly overlook intra-African
violence. Salem and Agot contend that Egyptian police respond
slowly or even "turn a blind eye" to crimes committed by Sudanese
gangs as long as they stay away from Egyptians or other Arabs.
Etefa told us that Sudanese refugees confirmed this perception,
reporting to UNHCR that the Egyptian police do not interfere with
Sudanese gangs. However, Agot said that his organization has
recently worked with Egyptian authorities to better patrol the
neighborhoods where the gangs operate, in the hopes of deterring
violence by intimidation.

6. Agot complained that gang members cannot be deported due to UNHCR
and Sudanese Embassy intervention. Agot said that the UNHCR lobbies
to protect most Sudanese who are arrested, as they are often
registered as refugees or asylum-seekers, and that the Sudanese
Embassy in Cairo also intervenes to protect Sudanese gang members.
Etefa defended UNHCR's policies, saying that deportation exposes
Sudanese to danger back in Sudan, and that gang members receive fair
trials according to Egyptian legal procedures. Professor Ibrahim
Nour, head of the African Studies Center at AUC, told us, however,
that Egypt recently deported five Sudanese due to their gang
activities for the first time in 2007.


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