Vol. 5 Num 568 Sat. December 31, 2005  
Front Page

10 Sudanese migrants killed in Cairo clash
UN refugee agency 'shocked'

Ten Sudanese migrants were killed yesterday in clashes with Egyptian police trying to dismantle a protest camp where hundreds of migrants had lived for months demanding resettlement outside the country, Egypt's Interior Ministry said.

The ministry said in a statement that the migrants' leaders attacked police after officers tried to persuade them to leave the city park where the camp had been set up, resulting in "chaos and a stampede."

Thirty migrants, mostly elderly people and children, were wounded and transferred to a nearby hospital, where 10 of them died, the ministry said.

Twenty-three policemen were also wounded in the clashes.

The Sudanese set up the camp Sept. 29 as a protest against the U.N. refugee agency nearby after it stopped hearing the cases of Sudanese seeking refugee status in the wake of the January peace deal that ended their home country's 21-year civil war.

Asylum-seekers generally must gain the status to be resettled in countries such as the United States, Australia and Britain.

Thousands of security forces moved in before midnight and closed off the area, surrounding the camp. In the early hours Friday, the Sudanese began dismantling the protest camp, while government buses waited nearby to transport them away.

But when many of the Sudanese refused to leave even after the camp was dismantled, police fired water cannons, drenching the protesters.

At times the Sudanese numbered up to 2,000 in the impromptu camp. At least three refugees have died in the camp, including a 4-year-old boy who succumbed to pneumonia earlier this month.

About 30,000 Sudanese are registered as refugees in Egypt, and estimates of Sudanese living in the country have ranged from 200,000 to several million.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said last week that it had reached a deal with some of the protest leaders, promising to resume hearing some migrants' cases and offering a one-time payment of up to $700 for housing in Egypt.

But most of the migrants rejected the deal, saying they wanted promises of resettlement abroad.

Meanwhile, the head of the UN refugee agency said he was "deeply shocked" that Egyptian riot police forcibly broke up a three-month protest outside UN offices in Cairo in which 10 Sudanese refugees were killed yesterday.

"I am deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic events early today in Cairo," High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in Geneva.

"Although we still do not have all of the details or a clear picture of what transpired, violence left several people dead and injured.

"There is no justification for such violence and loss of life. This is a terrible tragedy and our condolences go to all the families of those who died and to the injured," he said.