Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Yemenis in Egypt: Dreaming of Returning Home

Yemenis in Egypt: Dreaming of Returning Home

Saturday, 13 January, 2018 - 13:30
A Yemeni troupe performs at a theater in Egypt. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Living conditions for Yemeni refugees vary in the narrow alleys of large Egyptian cities, some are displaced by the hell ripping their country apart, while some are "stranded" seeking medical attention for critical situations.

Some Yemenis in Egypt are businessmen pumping investments into many fields and others who came years ago in search of jobs and a better life.

Sharing a place and time, Yemenis in Egypt are joined by a common denominator: fear against atrocities brought about by escalating war back home.

Despite bloody conflicts flooding cities in Yemen, the dream of returning home is a national desire held by all Yemenis worldwide which helps them push against difficult living conditions abroad.

Following up the lives of Yemenis in Egypt, Asharq Al-Awsat highlighted some aspects of their daily lives in Cairo and Giza neighborhoods, in addition to their economic and commercial activities.

Yemenis are spread in many Egyptian governorates, most notably Cairo, Alexandria (200 km north of Cairo), Asyut (south of Cairo) and Mansoura in Dakahlia Governorate (Central Delta Egypt).

Yemenis are mostly concentrated in Cairo. Although there are no official Egyptian statistics on the numbers of Yemenis present in Egypt, community leaders estimate them to range from 180,000 to 200,000.

“There are no official statistics on the number of Yemenis present in Egypt, but according to approximated statistics we have, the number was between 180,00 and 200,000 towards the end of 2017," said Fahad al-Ariki, head of the Yemeni community council in Egypt.

“Not over 100,000 were estimated in the 2016 records-- the increase was caused by the refugee influx relocating from Jordan and Sudan.”

Yemenis face problems in Egypt, the most important of which is the need to obtain an entry visa to determine the length of stay—a recently-imposed condition after having not needed an entry visa for over six decades—but Egypt and Yemen had conceded and approved a new system of entry.

According to the agreement signed in March 2015, Yemenis are required to obtain a visa to enter Egyptian embassies in any Arab or European capitals or upon arrival in Egypt, in addition to a residency application that is renewed every six months.

Discussions between Egyptian and Yemeni sides included the exemption of all those over the age of 60 or under the age of 16 from residence fees and renewal delay fines, as well as exemption of holders of diplomatic passports from visa requirement.

Yemeni citizens are granted an advantage over other nationalities by setting up the first six months free of charge. More so, those married women to Egyptian citizens and those with children holding Egyptian nationality are given a long-term annually renewed residency.

Yemenis who own apartments worth over $50,000 and their first-class relatives are granted renewable annual residence as well.

Students in Egyptian schools, universities and institutes and their first-class relatives are granted renewable annual residence until the completion of their studies.

Those who run businesses or a commercial record along with their first-class relatives are also given a renewed annual residence—while investors, through the General Investment Authority and their first-class relatives are granted a five-year renewable residency.

At the start of the unrest in Yemen, many of those displaced lived in high-end neighborhoods, such as Mohandessin, Zamalek and Agouza, but as the crisis stretched with ever-wasting savings, most of them went to common neighborhoods like Faisal and Haram.

The majority of Yemenis in Egypt rely on aid and assistance from their relatives and families abroad, while some have humble commercial projects, such as Yemeni restaurants and shops. Foreign remittances are the main source of income for the majority of those who have run out of savings to retain a basic life style.

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