This paper examines the situation of Iraqi refugees in Egypt’s capital Cairo. Although the Egyptian government has signed the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it has made restrictions to it which makes it extremely hard for refugees to obtain work permits and to enrol their children in public schools, amongst other things. The Egyptian authorities let in Iraqi refugees until January 2007, and are letting those who came before that stay legally (although temporary) in Egypt. However, they government is not providing any assistance to them besides letting them stay in the country.
Because of the restrictions on employment, most Iraqis in Cairo live exclusively or partially off savings brought from Iraq. Because of rising prices in Egypt, the money is running out faster and faster. Some receive remittances from abroad, either from a western country, from Iraq, or both, but most have no money coming in, and are becoming more and more desperate. As a survival strategy some have now returned to Iraq, mostly because they no longer have enough money to get by in Egypt, and not because they believe Iraq to be much safer than when they fled.
In contrast to other refugee groups on Cairo, such as the Sudanese who have stayed there for a long time, Iraqis do not have any community groups catering to their needs. Due to big mistrust issues in the Iraqi refugee community in Egypt, they do not seem to have much contact with other Iraqis at all. Not having as much social capital in their host country as do other refugee groups makes them less likely to gather the information they need about UNHCR, health facilities etc., which is often provided by other refugees from the same country.
In sum, of the problems Iraqis mention as big concerns are unemployment, the inability to enrol their children in public schools, being disconnected from family members and friends, sleep problems, the desire to be resettled, and self-esteem issues related to the lack of work and having to perceive themselves as refugees.