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IRIN - Egypt


Sinai slaughter, Manus refugee “coercion”, and “unthinkable” Rohingya returns: The Cheat Sheet

Fri, 24 Nov 2017 16:47:33 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of specialist editors scans the humanitarian horizon to curate a reading list on important and unfolding trends and events around the globe:   What next for Manus refugees?   Authorities in Papua New Guinea have forcibly removed asylum seekers and refugees from an Australian-backed offshore detention facility on Manus Island, with officers reportedly beating detainees with metal poles in footage the UN’s refugee agency called “shocking and inexcusable”. It’s more unwelcome attention for Australia’s controversial policies, which force asylum seekers who arrive by boat to have their refugee claims processed in other jurisdictions – and sever all possibility of resettlement in Australia. But the situation is far from resolved. Most of the remaining Manus detainees were transferred to unfinished and inadequate facilities elsewhere in Lorengau township, where local residents are reportedly angry about the arrangement. A large majority of asylum applicants on Manus Island and Nauru – where some 345 people are held in another offshore centre – have had their refugee applications approved. But with Australia off the table and a resettlement deal to the United States proceeding slowly, options are slim. UNHCR says recognised refugees are being offered “enticements” to return to countries with shoddy and worsening human rights records: “Severely inadequate services and conditions may now further coerce refugees with a well-founded fear of persecution to nevertheless return to their countries of origin,” the UN refugee agency said. Manus prison camp today — Behrouz Boochani (@BehrouzBoochani) November 24, 2017   “Unthinkable” Rohingya returns   Bangladesh and Myanmar say they have struck a deal that could send hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar. But what happens if those refugees refuse to return? There are few details on how the two countries would go about repatriating almost one million Rohingya stuck in Bangladesh, including more than 623,000 pushed out of Myanmar’s Rakhine State over the last three months. For years, Rohingya have lived amid strict segregation and repressive policies that amount to “apartheid”, Amnesty International said this week, and animosity toward the Rohingya continues to simmer back in Rakhine. Rights groups fear the blueprint for repatriation will be found in the Rohingya crises of decades past. In the late 1970s, Bangladeshi authorities cut food rations to some 200,000 Rohingya refugees, effectively starving people back to Myanmar. More than 10,000 Rohingya starved to death in the process. The cycle continued 20 years later for a new round of refugees: the two countries agreed to a bilateral repatriation deal and tens of thousands were sent back “involuntarily”, according to Human Rights Watch, which also criticised the role of the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, in the repatriation process. The intense international focus on this year’s exodus will mean even greater scrutiny on aid groups, who have been accused of unintentionally entrenching segregation and rights abuses in Rakhine. But aid groups were sidelined this week as Bangladesh and Myanmar put together their roadmap for returns. This doesn’t bode well for the prospects of truly voluntary returns, according to Amnesty’s director for refugee and migrant rights, Charmain Mohamed. “Returns in the current climate are simply unthinkable,” she said.   Israel offer asylum seekers jail or deportation   The existence of some 40,000 African asylum seekers in Israel, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, has always been precarious. Even though Israel is a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, it has only granted a handful of Africans asylum. In the last few years many have been held during the nights in a desert detention facility for men called Holot. Israel has been pressuring and paying asylum seekers to leave – $3,500 plus airfare – sending them to countries like Rwanda and Uganda, where their future is uncertain a[...]

The Eritrean children who cross borders and deserts alone

Thu, 27 Jul 2017 09:06:08 +0000

Yobieli is 12 years old. He sits on a small leather stool and fumbles with his hands, interlocking his fingers and pulling them apart. There’s a dark shadow of soft peach fuzz on his upper lip, and his cheeks are childishly smooth. But, his eyes look older. They take in the world around him with the measured calculation of an adult, not the innocent wonder of a child. “I didn’t discuss leaving with my family. I only talked about it with my friends,” he tells me. “Because of the difficulties I was facing in my house, I decided to go alone.” Yobieli is Eritrean. In August 2016 he fled his home, crossing borders and the desert on foot, unaccompanied by any adult relative or caretaker, only to arrive here: a neon-lit apartment in the rundown outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. He is one of thousands of children to have undertaken similar journeys in recent years as part of what the UN has called the largest refugee crisis in history. Last year alone, 25,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Italy. Eritreans were the single largest nationality. But only the ones who make it are counted. An untold number of others disappear and die along the way or, like Yobieli, end up stuck somewhere they never intended to stay. Young, alone and vulnerable, they have been exploited and abused and continue to face a dangerous and uncertain future. Leaving home “The main reason I left was poverty,” Yobieli says. But in Eritrea, poverty and politics are deeply intertwined. “My family was poor because my father was a soldier. He was taken to the army.” Like all Eritrean adults, Yobieli’s father was conscripted into the country’s national service. On paper, conscription is supposed to last for 18 months. In reality, it stretches on indefinitely, essentially acting as a system of forced labour for recruits who receive next-to-no pay. "I wanted to go anywhere I could feel safe" National service is the primary reason why nearly 400,000 people – almost nine percent of Eritrea’s population – have fled in recent years, including a large number of unaccompanied children. With Yobieli’s father gone, his mother was forced to work as a maid in other people’s homes. But the money was never enough. “I stopped going to school in grade four because of the difficulties with my family,” Yobieli says. Instead of attending classes, he tried to find work to help support his family as their situation continued to deteriorate. But even at such a young age, he knew that not all children faced the same struggles. “I saw young people like me on TV going to school and having a good life, enjoying life. So I asked myself and my friends, ‘Why don’t we have the same life? Why are we living these difficulties?’” Yobieli says. “We deserve to also have a good life like them. We want to go to school. We want to have a normal life… The only solution was to take a decision [to leave].” Once the decision was made, the first step was fairly easy. Yobieli’s village is close to Eritrea’s border with Sudan, and he was able to sneak across without the help of a smuggler. On the other side he faced a choice. Most migrants and refugees go to Libya where the chaos of civil war has allowed clandestine migration to flourish. But Libya is also notoriously dangerous. Extortion, kidnapping, rapes, beatings, and detention of migrants and refugees are all commonplace. Last year, more and more Eritreans were opting to come to Egypt to avoid these abuses. “I heard that the situation in Libya is very difficult because of IS [so-called Islamic State] and the other armed groups and gangs,” says Yobieli. “For the sake of my safety, I decided to come to Egypt.” The trip across the Sahara requires a smuggler and costs somewhere between $500 and $900. “I didn’t have any money,” Yobieli says. But, he was able to tag along with a group headed to Egypt. Some of the people he was travelling with convinced the smuggler to let him come for free because of his age. “The trip was difficult,” Yobieli says. “We w[...]

Egypt boat disaster shines light on new migration trend

Mon, 10 Oct 2016 08:47:25 +0000

Just before sunrise on a warm September morning, mobile phones in the village of Green Island on Egypt's Mediterranean coast began ringing urgently.   “Our children began calling us from the sea. They said: ‘Save us! This boat is going to sink’,” Walid el-Hor, a community leader in the small fishing community, told IRIN.   At least 204 people died on 21 September when an overloaded boat, carrying around 500 migrants destined for Italy, capsized around eight miles off Green Island.   Those on board included Sudanese, Eritreans, and Somalis, but the majority were Egyptian, and many were locals from Green Island. The village lies just across the Nile from Borg Rasheed, a favourite spot used by smugglers to transport groups of migrants in rickety boats out to larger vessels waiting several miles off the coast.   “They called us, their relatives, when they arrived at the big boat, and because we are fishermen, our children know the sea. When they saw the boat, they understood that it would sink,” said el-Hor.   Deadly accidents involving overcrowded migrant boats are not new; the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has warned that if current trends continue, 2016 is set to be the deadliest year on record for Mediterranean crossings.   But the Borg Rasheed tragedy has put the spotlight on a trend that is worrying local migration experts: the increasing numbers of Egyptians, particularly unaccompanied minors, who are attempting the risky crossing to Europe.   Growing trend   Prior to the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, Egyptian migrants seeking to travel to Europe, like many other African migrants, went via smugglers operating on the Libyan coast.   Ehab Goma*, a fisherman in his thirties from Borg Rasheed, told IRIN he had travelled to Libya in his mid-teens to work, first as a fisherman and later as a smuggler, transporting people to Italy.   “There was little money in the Egyptian smuggling industry back then,” he said.   Since the Egyptian revolution in 2011, the trade on Egypt’s coasts has picked up. In the last three years in particular, an increasing number of foreign migrants and refugees have begun to depart from Egypt, preferring to avoid the risks of war-torn Libya.   Small towns like Borg Rasheed have become hotspots for the smuggling business. Goma, like many in the town, still makes money from the trade. Although he no longer captains the boats, he is involved in the “storage” process, whereby migrants are hidden away in coastal safe-houses while waiting for a place on a boat to become available.   And it’s not just foreign migrants. In recent years, Egyptian nationals have started to board the boats in ever greater numbers. According to the International Organization for Migration, a total of 4,095 Egyptians travelled by boat to Italy in 2014, making them the 10th largest national group arriving irregularly by boat. After a small dip in 2015, IOM figures for the first eight months of 2016 show the numbers went back up, with a total of 3,792 Egyptians arriving in Italy.   Many of those on the move – around 60 percent this year – are teenagers travelling alone. Under Italian law, unlike adults, they cannot be deported.   El-Hor, the community leader, said the growing number of young people leaving is inevitable given the lack of economic opportunities in the area.   “Wages are very low; a young man here can work for 2,000 [Egyptian] pounds ($225) a month doing two jobs, but that’s not enough to feed a family,” he said. “If you have sisters you need to marry off, what are you going to do?” he said.   Goma agreed that Egypt’s worsening economy is a factor. “The prices of everything are increasing – water, electricity, cigarettes. There are some jobs in the date palm industry, but they can barely get you 1,000 pounds ($112) a month.”   The government has responded to the growing trend of departures with plans for a national awareness campaign and promises of further development.   Addressing Egyptians i[...]

For Eritreans, Egypt is the new route to Europe

Mon, 06 Jun 2016 16:27:37 +0000

Like much of Cairo, the sprawling low-income neighbourhood of Ard el-Lewa comes alive in the evening, once the sun has gone down. On warm summer nights, children chase cats along streets too narrow for cars. Tuk-tuks weave between the shisha smokers and newspaper readers spilling onto the road as the cafés fill up. But it’s not just Egyptians out enjoying themselves. Large numbers of young Eritrean men also cluster on street corners, or gather outside the newly opened Eritrean restaurant in one of the concrete tenements, exchanging news in their Tigrinya language. “There are so many new Eritreans now in Ard el-Lewa,” Filmon*, an Eritrean community activist, told IRIN. “It all changed at the end of last summer. So many started arriving that now there is a shortage of flats to rent and the landlords have increased the prices.” Cairo has long been home to a small community of Eritrean refugees fleeing war, oppression and traffickers, but local activists say the number of new arrivals has soared over the last year.   In the past, most Eritreans who came to Egypt registered asylum claims with the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, and waited years for a shot at resettlement to Europe or the United States. But these recent arrivals don’t intend on staying that long. Filmon said most have come to Egypt with the intention of finding a boat to Europe as soon as possible from ports near Alexandria. “They are all just waiting for the smugglers to tell them their boat is ready,” he said. “Ard el-Lewa has become a big waiting room.” ‘Good smugglers and bad smugglers’ The newcomers are part of a surge of refugees fleeing Eritrea that began in 2014. UNHCR recorded a sharp increase in Eritreans seeking asylum in the EU that year. In 2015, the numbers increased again, with more Eritreans arriving in Italy via the Mediterranean than any other national group.  The refugees are fleeing a notoriously repressive state where political opposition is banned; freedom of movement, expression and religion are curtailed; and young people are forced to perform open-ended military service, which can last for decades. Tekle, a 27-year-old Pentecostal Christian from Asmara, said he fled because he faced religious persecution. “We have to pray in secret,” he said. “The risk of jail, especially for the prayer leaders, is very great. Hundreds of Pentecostals are in prison due to their beliefs.” Tekle arrived in Egypt last autumn, guided by a series of smugglers across the Eritrean border into eastern Sudan, then by jeep to Khartoum, across the desert to Aswan, and by train to Cairo. He is now awaiting a call from a local simsar, or broker, who connects migrants in Ard el-Lewa with smugglers on the coast. “I am waiting for my turn,” he told IRIN. “I don’t know where I will leave from. They will call me when they know the way is safe, and then we will go to the north coast to wait for the boat.” Tekle is aware of the risks, but trusts his agent. “I know the good simsars. I only paid $2,000 for my trip – although some others pay much more – and I know he will find me a good boat.” As Tekle hinted, the journey for many others is much harder. Rahwa, a skinny 16-year-old, travelled alone from her small village in the Eritrean highlands and is still suffering from the effects of a lingering parasitic infection picked up from drinking the dirty water given to her by her smugglers. Sarah, an older Eritrean woman who is caring for her, says Rahwa was sexually abused by her smugglers during the journey. “Ninety percent of the ladies who have come this route suffer wounds in their hearts,” said Sarah. “The way is so dangerous… you don’t know if you can even trust the people beside you.” Filmon agrees that the journey is hardest for women. “There are good smugglers and there are bad smugglers. If you know who to choose and you are with a man, you can be safe. But travelling alone is very dangerous.” Egypt route picks up[...]

Pay now to protect 1 billion people from coastal floods

Mon, 16 May 2016 13:52:53 +0000

As sea levels rise, so will the costs of dealing with it, Christian Aid reminds us in a report released today. “Spending money now on reducing the risk of disasters will save money and lives later,” said report author Dr Alison Doig in a statement. More than one billion people will be exposed to coastal flooding by 2060, the report says. Most of them will be in Asia, where the seven most vulnerable cities are. India’s Kolkata and Mumbai top the list, followed by the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka. allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="650" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="75%"> The nation with the most people living in areas vulnerable to coastal flooding is China, home to six of the 20 most financially vulnerable cities. Four of the other top 20 cities are in the United States, including the city with the most materially to lose: Miami. With $3.5 trillion worth of exposed assets, it is projected to pay the highest cost of coastal flooding by 2070. The growth of coastal populations combined with rising sea levels due to climate change has created “a perfect storm”, said Doig.   allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="400" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" scrolling="no" src="" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="75%"> Poor people will bear the brunt of it. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for the percentage of global aid for disaster risk reduction to be doubled to one percent, or one billion dollars. The report’s authors suggest raising that figure to 5 percent, arguing that although it sounds like a large amount: it’s better to pay that now than to pay more later. jf/ag Ocean waves Maps and Graphics Environment and Disasters Climate change Cities Pay now to protect 1 billion people from coastal floods Jared Ferrie IRIN 20 cities most at risk from flooding PHNOM PENH Africa Somalia Americas Asia Bangladesh China India Malaysia Myanmar Vietnam Europe Egypt Français العربية [...]

Off the cliff

Fri, 31 Jul 2015 23:00:00 +0000

New UN data shows the catastrophic effects of the Syrian conflict in terms of migration since 1950.

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(image) Zahra Omar Abdelatif fled the Kurdish region of Syria with her husband and three children "because everyone was killing each other". They paid a smugger $2,000 to get to Bulgaria and now live in an abandoned schoolhouse awaiting their asylum application t Maps and Graphics UN data shows the emptying of Syria in one simple line Ben Parker IRIN LONDON Europe Germany Middle East and North Africa Lebanon Jordan Iraq Egypt Syria Turkey

Secrecy in Sinai - an unknown human toll

Thu, 09 Jul 2015 23:00:00 +0000

Ever since Islamic State-affiliated militants tried to take the town of Sheikh Zuwayed in North Sinai last week, the Egyptian media has talked of little else. “What mistakes were made?” “Where did they get their weapons from?” and “What can be done to rid the country of the scourge of Islamist militants?” have been common refrains. But look closely and you will notice what is lacking – reporting of the human suffering on the ground. Reliable figures on the number of civilian dead and displaced don’t exist, while aid to those in need has been limited, if present at all. This is in large part due to a systematic campaign to quash criticism and dissent that has intensified since Egypt’s military chiefs ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July 2013 with popular support. Egypt’s northeastern rugged region of Sinai has long been a hotbed of Islamist activity. It has become increasingly militarised as attacks have proliferated in recent years. Draconian security measures now prevent journalists and rights groups from reporting from there. What we do know  On Wednesday 1 July, an estimated 300-400 armed militants from a group calling itself Wilayat Sinaa (Sinai Province) led a meticulously planned attack on North Sinai's coastal town of Sheikh Zuwayed. At about 6:30 am, the attackers occupied the rooftops of several houses and kicked off the battle by firing machine guns and RPGs at the town's police compound, the military barracks, and several security checkpoints.  On the ground, several groups laid improvised explosive devices and landmines to try to stop reinforcements arriving from other cities, including North Sinai’s regional capital El-Arish to the west and the border town of Rafah to the east. Almost 60,000 people live in Sheikh Zuwayed. It is the second largest town in North Sinai and the only major population centre remaining in the restive corner of the peninsula, which borders the Gaza Strip and Israel. I received regular grim updates from contacts in Sheikh Zuwayed as the attacks unfolded. "The terrorists control the ground. State troops are fighting from their posts and civilians are stranded between both sides," one resident told me an hour after it began. The fighting was so severe that the first ambulances didn’t arrive in the town until after sunset, another resident said. Mobile phone networks were cut, so people relied on landlines. Everyone that left their house was feared dead by their friends and families until the next day when movement became possible again. The battle raged on through Thursday, with government aeroplanes bombarding the southern suburbs of Sheikh Zuwayed where the militants were said to be hiding. Explosions continued into Friday evening. Silenced The government said 241 militants and 21 soldiers were killed in the clashes. The number of civilians killed or wounded remains unknown.  Normally in such circumstances, there would be a full death toll including civilians. But we do not live in normal times.  Since coming to power in 2013, the Egyptian government led by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has steadily closed down media coverage of the region, declaring it a military zone.  Ahmed Abu Draa, one of Sinai's most prominent reporters, was harshly dealt with for claiming to have witnessed Egyptian Apache helicopter gunships striking his hometown of al-Muqataa and neighbouring al-Touma, two villages south of Sheikh Zuwayed, in September 2013.  "What I saw was the destruction of six civilian homes and part of a mosque in al-Muqataa. Four citizens were injured, one of whom was taken to the Sheikh Zuwayed Hospital, where the military detained him and transferred him to the military hospital," the award-winning journalist wrote on 3 September, 2013. Less than two days after posting this testimony on Facebook, Abu Draa was detained and transferred to a military prison where he remained for a [...]

Time for a new deal for Middle East's displaced?

Tue, 09 Jun 2015 23:00:00 +0000

Conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen are leading to unprecedented numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs) in the Middle East and North Africa, and increasingly complex and severe humanitarian crises. According to the 2015 global report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), more people were newly displaced last year within their own borders in the Middle East than in Central Africa and South Asia put together. Yet, while Africa has had a continent-wide instrument legally binding governments to protect the rights of IDPs since 2012, there is no such framework in place in the Middle East, where few countries have national policies on internal displacement. On paper, the rights of IDPs globally are recognised by the 1998 Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, under which governments are obliged to protect their citizens. This differs from people who cross borders and become refugees. Their rights are enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention. READ MORE: Analysis: Refugee or IDP: does it really matter? In practice, in spite of the Guiding Principles, IDPs often fall through the cracks and receive little assistance, as is currently happening with families in Iraq and Syria, where IDMC estimates combined internal displacement to be close to 10 million. Photo: IDMC Syria and Iraq host more than 10 million IDPs Time for a new regional approach? Given the region’s growing caseload of IDPs, and the associated economic and social threats this poses, is it time for governments in the Middle East to draft and implement their own version of the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (commonly known as the Kampala Convention after the city where it was signed)? One thing which struck me during my recent missions to Syria and Iraq is how little prepared national governments are to respond to the needs of IDPs. “Fundamentally, it’s a question of national responsibility, and the way in which governments deal with IDPs varies a lot,” said Beth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings-LSE Project on Internal Displacement. “It would be great if governments in the region could come together to at least confirm the importance of the issue, and to work together and develop some kind of common standard.” The UN’s special rapporteur on the human rights of IDPs, Chaloka Beyani, also backed calls for a more formal, legalised regional response in the Middle East. “The Kampala Convention in Africa offers to member states a framework based on international law that they can adopt and then implement… Such a framework would be important for the Middle East too,” he told IRIN. “One thing which struck me during my recent missions to Syria and Iraq is how little prepared national governments are to respond to the needs of IDPs.” Beyani said that until now governments in the Middle East had “shown little appetite” to develop legislation and policies on internal displacement, and that Iraq, which did develop a national policy on this issue in 2008, has not applied it during the current crisis, which he said was “a missed opportunity.” Photo: John James/IRIN Conditions for IDPs can be grim, like at this camp for displaced families in Yemen. ReShaping Aid However, the tide may be turning. The sheer number of internally uprooted families across the region, on top of the ever-growing exodus of Syrian refugees to Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, could be a catalyst for governments to start more joined-up conversations about displacement. The upcoming World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) may also have a role to play. Beyani said that at the MENA WHS consultation in Amman in March, there was “a growing recognition of the importance of having more predictable mechanisms in place in the region to deal with internal displacement.” “There is a [...]

What does the Boko Haram/IS alliance mean?

Tue, 10 Mar 2015 00:00:00 +0000

Nigeria’s insurgent group Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad), better known as Boko Haram, has declared allegiance to Islamic State (IS), the group formerly known as ISIS. While commentators – perhaps some with the benefit of hindsight - say this had been on the cards, what does it actually mean?  IRIN takes a closer look at the implications of the announcement, made in an audio recording by Boko Haram leader Abubaker Shekau over the weekend. What happens now? Nobody quite knows. Shekau introduced himself as the Imam of Boko Haram, and swore bay’ah (allegiance) “to the Caliph of the Muslims” IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying he would “hear and obey in times of difficulty and prosperity”.  In a formal sense it means that Shekau accepts the authority of Baghdadi as caliph – the transnational leader of all Muslims. But Human Rights Watch researcher Mausi Segun says she is “not sure Shekau is ready to yield any part of his authority to IS”. Fatima Akilu, director of behavioral analysis in Nigeria’s Office of the National Security Adviser, doesn’t see Shekau’s personality allowing him to be “under another person’s authority”. And according to Ryan Cummings, chief security analyst for Africa at the crisis management firm red24, “declaring allegiance doesn’t necessarily mean taking direction”. He believes Boko Haram’s narrow focus on Nigeria and the Lake Chad region may well continue, rather than the group turning to wage a broader jihadist war.  Cummings points out that ISIS has not yet formally accepted Shekau’s bay’ah - but this is presumably only a formality. The ISIS-linked Amaq news agency reported that fighters in Syria’s ar-Raqqah governorate “celebrated through the city streets” following news of the pledge, according to the jihadist monitoring service, SITE. ISIS’s Twitter accounts also published “welcome” messages to Boko Haram. Is this out of the blue?  Commentators have noted that links between the two organisations have long-been flagged through video and social media “shout-outs”. When Shekau announced the creation of a caliphate in the captured Nigerian town of Gwoza in August 2014, his video made reference to al-Bagdahdi, who had proclaimed an ISIS caliphate in June. ISIS had earlier approvingly cited Boko Haram’s abduction of the Chibok school girls in April 2014 to justify its enslavement of Yazidi women.  In November, issue 5 of IS’s glossy English-language Dabiq magazine said that bay’ah had been received from "Nigeria", among other territories, but recognition was being delayed. “This delay should end with … the appointment or recognition of leadership” by the caliph for “those lands where multiple groups have given [allegiance] and merged,” the magazine said. It was possibly a reference to the re-unification of elements of Boko Haram’s breakaway Ansaru faction, according to Jacob Zenn of the extremist monitoring group Jamestown Foundation, quoted by CNN. Most commentators have pointed to Boko Haram’s improved communication technical skills as further indication that links pre-dated last weekend’s announcement.  Does it have operational significance? The Nigerian government has framed the alliance as proof of Boko Haram’s incapacity. It is evidence, they say, that regional military pressure involving neighbours Cameroon, Chad and Niger is working. “For Boko Haram it’s a big propaganda coup, even for IS. We’ve been talking about them for the last few days now, and one of their objectives is to have that global spotlight,” said Akilu. “But operationally, I can’t see how it can have a significant benefit.”  Boko Haram is known to have long-standing connections to Al-Qaeda-aligned Al Shabaab in[...]

Egyptians in Libya - to flee or to stay?

Fri, 27 Feb 2015 00:00:00 +0000

The roundabouts in the Libyan capital of Tripoli have long been a place for Egyptians to find work. Every day, carpenters, builders, plumbers and decorators sit and wait, each man carrying the tools of his trade to make it easier for prospective employers. Nowadays there are no Egyptians. Last week the Islamic State (IS) in Libya released a video showing the beheading of 20 Egyptian Coptic Christians and a Ghanaian. Since then, over 25,000 Egyptians have returned, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, while hundreds of detained irregular migrants have been released from jail. Egyptians have reported an uptick in attacks – at one roundabout, a Libyan man was shot dead for trying to prevent a group of men harassing Egyptian workers. But for some, the prospect of returning to a life in poverty in their home country makes staying on in Libya’s warzone a risk they are willing to take. Revenge and revenge again Libya is split between two rival parliaments and governments – the internationally-recognised ones in the eastern towns of Tobruk and Beida, and rival breakaway institutions, led by the Libya Dawn movement in the capital Tripoli.  The situation for Egyptians is worse in the west. The prime minister for the Tripoli-based government Omar Al-Hassi has urged all Egyptians to leave Libya, according to the state news agency LANA, admitting his government’s security authorities are unable to guarantee Egyptians’ safety. There are no firm figures for how many Egyptians are in Libya, with estimates ranging from 40,000 to over 100,000. Bricklayer and tiler Hisham, who has lived in Tripoli for 23 years, said some 75 percent of the Egyptians he knew in the city had left since the release of the video. “It could have happened to any nation but now it has knocked at our door,” he said. “We have seen atrocities committed in Syria and Iraq and now we feel the same.”  The brutal IS killing is believed to have taken place on the outskirts of the central town of Sirte, 280 miles from Tripoli, which is currently occupied by a group of Islamists who have declared loyalty to the so-called Islamic State (IS). The group has murdered Christians and other minority groups in Syria and Iraq. In retaliation for the killings, Egyptian planes bombed Derna - the first Libyan town overrun by IS forces. Egyptians of all religions in the country fear the move could provoke another wave of violence against their countrymen. “There is a genuine fear of revenge and retribution and we know Libyans are under the same pressures as Egyptians, with warring factions,” Hisham said. “The fear of revenge is one of the reasons why many have left.” Advocacy group Amnesty International warned in the aftermath of the IS video: “Civilians in Libya are in mortal danger as retaliatory attacks by all sides spiral even further out of control.” The minister of Tripoli’s Anglican Church, the Reverend Eban Baskra Vasihar, said the release of the video had sent shockwaves through the whole Christian community, as well as ordinary Libyan families. “Most Libyans are very gentle people and are very upset about what happened.” A few Egyptian Coptic Christians are among those choosing to stay. The last Coptic church closed last year, so its former congregation either worship in private or attend services in the other churches in the capital. Among them is Amoun, who attends one of the three churches still open in Tripoli. He said he would not be scared away easily. “I have been living here for eight years, working in the oil industry, and the situation is good for me,” he said. “I have had no problems and I will stay here, although family and friends back home are putting pressure on me to leave.” Those Egyptians who remain in the capital are keeping the lowest o[...]