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Wikileaks cable: Egypt worried that S. Sudan independence will increase refugee flows

February 9, 2011

A leaked February 2010 US diplomatic memo shows that Egyptian officials worried that the break up of Sudan would increase refugee flows to Egypt.

Any large increase in Sudanese refugees arriving to Egypt would have significant implications for UNHCR’s refugee status determination work. Egypt has long been the site of one of the largest UNHCR RSD operations in the world, dealing mainly with asylum-seekers arriving from the Horn of Africa. A decade ago, a surge in south Sudanese applications in Egypt led to heavy RSD backlogs.

In 2004 UNHCR-Cairo suspended individual RSD for Sudanese in the wake of the South Sudanese peace agreement and began reducing its use of resettlement to the United States, Canada and Australia. This led the next year to months of protests by refugees outside UNHCR’s office, then at Mustafa Mahmoud Square in Cairo. These protests were broken up by Egyptian police in December 2005 and the deaths of 27 refugees, about half of them children.

Last month, Southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly to secede. Sudanese President Omar Bashir has accepted the results. On February 7, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the United States would recognize the new state of South Sudan as a sovereign independent country when secession becomes effective in July.

One year earlier, in a cable obtained by Wikileaks and published by The New York Times, US Ambassador Margaret Scobey told Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen: “The GOE would like to maintain Sudanese unity because it believes a break-up will increase refugee flows into Egypt and threaten Egypt’s access to Nile waters.”

It is not clear why Egypt worried that the independence of South Sudan would increase refugee arrivals, since independence is meant to resolve a civil war that fed one of the largest refugee influxes into Egypt in recent decades. A successful peace process would normally be expected to facilitate the repatriation of many south Sudanese in Egypt.

One Comment
  1. Bisrat permalink
    February 9, 2011 1:01 pm

    I don’t understand the logic behind an increase in Sudanese refugees flow to Egypt or anywhere and Southern Sudanese independence.

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