International and Arab News
Writing for ‘Egypt Today,’ Egyptian sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim claims that Egypt, the poorest country in the Arab world besides Yemen and Sudan, is currently home to 10 million refugees, 5 million from Sudan, 3 million from Syria, 1 million from Iraq, and half a million from Palestine.
He adds that Egypt welcomes refugees with open arms, and some, like the Syrians, are growing the economy - which is what I heard about the Syrians in Cairo as well. However, he claims the question is the reason they have fled. Ten million refugees are escaping their country, not their enemies. They are not like Ukrainians in Poland. Rather they are displaced persons fleeing their countries by any means possible, leaving the seas filled with corpses, children and plastic boats.
Moreover, while Arabism is solidarity and helping one another is a fraternal duty, the countries drowning in the most miserable types of refugees are the ones most in need of help themselves. If Egypt has the capacity, because of its size and population, to host ten million other people, the same cannot be said of Jordan or Lebanon, for example.
How could a country as vast and rich as Iraq produce so many migrants instead of receiving others itself? How can a country like Syria tolerate the fact that 12 million citizens, most of them capable and skilled workers, have left the country? The whole world treats the refugee crisis like it were the host countries’ problem. They behave like the issue has nothing to do with them, which has made the problem worse and worse.
Forty to Sixty thousand Syrian children are born in Lebanon every year. The numbers in Jordan are probably very similar. These people need schools, universities, and jobs; otherwise, they grow up in conditions that threaten the future of both groups.
The hospitality of Egypt cannot be taken as a basis for the tragedies of the twenty-first century. The calamity of the previous century was Israel’s displacement of the Palestinians. The Arabs are falling victim to displacement at the hands of their own countrymen. Was Dr. Ibrahim not taken aback when he wrote that 5 million Sudanese have become refugees in Egypt or anywhere else? Was Sudan not supposed to be the land of the Arab world’s workers and an investment center? What about Mesopotamia, the country of the Fertile Crescent? There is a massive difference between ten million (twice the population of Lebanon) Arabs immigrating to Egypt and ten million of them fleeing to the country.
It is not a question of hospitality; this displacement is sad. Mr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim also claims there are half of a million Libyans in Egypt. What happened to the days when Egypt imagined that Libya would be its economic and global auxiliary?