Migrants in Egypt: Between estrangement and alienation

Published: 1/Oct/2018
Source: Goethe Institute

There are those who came to Egypt alongside foreign occupiers or as invaders, and those who came to escape war or poor conditions in their own countries, seeking asylum elsewhere. This is not to mention those people living in Egypt because of work, study or marriage to Egyptians, all of which reasons might lead us to assume that there has been an increase in acceptance and integration of the other, and not the reverse.

By Aya Nabil

In the early days after Rose Coco’s arrival in Cairo from southern Sudan three years ago, she had a lot of questions about what her life in Egypt would be like. Would she be able to adjust and stay as she planned, or would she have to look for another country to move to?

The answers which immediately arose in her mind did not bode well, especially after what happened on the night of her arrival, when a Tok Tok driver hurled a brick at her head. As her aunt who has lived in Egypt for eight years explained: “You haven’t seen anything yet.” This only increased her misgivings.

All of Rose’s expectations changed that day. Before her arrival in Egypt, her only thought was that she was coming to a country which shared many things with her homeland. Egypt is both Arab and African. Indeed, once upon a time the two were one country, added to which she had the impression that Egyptians were ‘good-natured’ and ‘friendly’. Getting used to living in their midst would not be difficult, therefore. At least this is how Egyptian soap operas, which are broadcast non-stop on Sudanese TV, portrayed the situation.

What happened that first night and the words of her aunt were only the beginning of Rose’s changing impressions. Over the years, her sense of alienation has become entrenched. She even believes that, had she lived in Egypt her whole lifetime, Egyptians would still not accept her and she would remain a ‘stranger’ or ‘a guest’, so long as she doesn’t look like them, or as she says, as long as ‘her skin colour is different’.

For a long time, Rose tried to get used to all this, but then her son Yusuf was born and the situation was different. The question which she had tried to avoid over the years surfaced again: would her child have a better chance than she had had of integrating into this society into which he was born, despite not holding its nationality? Or would she have to move on once more, so that he would not have to face the same sense of alienation she felt?

Read further: https://www.goethe.de/prj/ruy/en/mig/21364191.html

Themes: Nationality and Refugees, Statelessness
Regions: Egypt
Year: 2018