World Refugee Day 2004: Egypt

World Refugee Day, 20 June 2004

© © UNHCR Cairo
UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Adel Imam addressing the crowd at the gala dinner in Cairo. © UNHCR Cairo

On 4 June, a gala dinner was held to commemorate World Refugee Day and celebrate 50 years of UNHCR in Egypt. The event was attended by high-level officials from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior, the League of Arab States, the diplomatic community, refugees, representatives from implementing partners and other UN agencies.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Adel Imam co-hosted the event, which received extensive media coverage. Several interviews were conducted with Imam, who was guest of honour, as well as UNHCR staff. Almost 400 guests enjoyed the open-air atmosphere of Club Mohamed Ali by the Nile. Guests danced to the music of the famous Nubian singer, Mohamed Mounir.

© UNHCR Cairo
Famous Nubian singer Mohamed Mounir at the gala dinner.

The UNHCR gala dinner kicked off to a month of events to commemorate World Refugee Day.

On 19 June, UNHCR participated in the 2004 World Refugee Day Festival. The festival, which took place at the American University campus, was organised by STAR Student Action for Refugees with the support of UNHCR. The aim of the festival was to promote awareness of refugee issues in Egypt by celebrating the diverse talents of the different refugee communities living in Cairo. Art, music, theatre, dance and food from Palestine, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia were much appreciated by over 1,500 persons attending the festival and reflected some of the countries of origin of refugees in Egypt. Special attention was given this year to refugee children who had spent the past weeks designing their own activities for the day.

© UNHCR Cairo
Making coffee the Ethiopian way at the World Refugee Day festival at the American University in Cairo.

A football tournament for the Sudanese refugee community was organised by the Sacred Heart Church Sports Committee with the support of UNHCR. Twenty-two teams representing the different districts of Cairo competed over a period of two months starting on 14 March and ending on 6 June. Matches were played every Friday and Sunday afternoon on the grounds of the "College De La Salle" French School.

The award ceremony was held at the school, where the winning teams were given medals. A large number of the Sudanese refugee community in Cairo gathered to watch the finals and cheer for their teams. The gathering was a chance for UNHCR staff, Sakakini church and the refugees to jointly celebrate World Refugee Day.

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Adel Imam

Adel Imam

Crisis in Libya

UNHCR is working with the Tunisian and Egyptian authorities and aid groups to manage the dramatic influx of tens of thousands of people fleeing Libya. By the beginning of March, two weeks after the violence erupted in Libya, more than 140,000 people had fled to the neighbouring countries, while thousands more were waiting to cross. Most are Egyptian and Tunisian nationals, though small numbers of Libyans and other nationalities are managing to escape. UNHCR is particularly concerned about thousands of refugees and other foreigners trapped inside Libya, especially people from sub-Saharan Africa. The following photo essay gives a glimpse into what is happening at the borders.

Crisis in Libya

On the Border: Stuck in Sallum

After violence erupted in Libya in February last year, tens of thousands of people began streaming into Egypt at the Sallum border crossing. Most were Egyptian workers, but almost 40,000 third country nationals also turned up at the border and had to wait until they could be repatriated. Today, with the spotlight long gone, a group of more than 2,000 people remain, mainly single young male refugees from the Sudan. But there are also women, children and the sick and elderly waiting for a solution to their situation. Most are likely to be resettled in third countries, but those who arrived after October are not being considered for resettlement, while some others have been rejected for refugee status. They live in tough conditions at the Egyptian end of the border crossing. A site for a new camp in no man's land has been identified. UNHCR, working closely with the border authorities, plays the major role in providing protection and assistance.

On the Border: Stuck in Sallum

Egypt: Seeking SafetyPlay video

Egypt: Seeking Safety

Amid the ebb and flow of fighting in eastern Libya, a steady stream of people continues to seek shelter in Egypt and other neighbouring countries. They tell their stories.
Egypt: Stranded at the BorderPlay video

Egypt: Stranded at the Border

Thousands of people are stranded at Egypt's Sallum border crossing with Libya. Many of them are migrant workers, like these exhausted Bangladeshi men.
Egypt: Egyptians Cross Back HomePlay video

Egypt: Egyptians Cross Back Home

A steady stream of people have been crossing into Egypt from Libya. These migrant workers were elated to return home.