Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Background and Introduction

In the last three decades, Egypt has become host to refugees fleeing conflicts and persecution in Africa, Asia and Middle East. Many refugees have made Egypt their home and various refugee communities live amongst Egyptian, contributing to the Egyptian society. Though Sudanese are considered to be the largest refugee population, there are also large numbers of Somalis, Eritreans, Ethiopians, North Africans, and even more from Central and West Africa as also Iraqis. Refugees from the Middle and Far East also seek asylum in Egypt. In addition, there are an estimated 70,000 Palestinians. These refugees are often falsely identified as economic migrants, rather than a vulnerable population who fled their homelands due to political unrests and violence.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the main body handling refugee affairs in Egypt in the sense of granting protection, services and other procedural issues. Recognized refugees are offered one of three durable solutions for their refugee status:

  1. Resettlement to another country
  2. local integration in the country of first asylum (Egypt) or
  3. support for voluntary repatriation to the country of origin.

Resettlement as solution is only available to the most vulnerable of the refugees and with civil war and unrest having become second nature; repatriation is almost never the solution to most refugees. Since the vast majority of refugees will never be resettled, integration in Egypt is of great concern and the need of the hour. This is possible only when when the misconceptions between the host communities and the refugee communities are cleared and an appreciation and understanding of the others' circumstances is fostered.

Against this backdrop and with a view to bring the refugee and the egyptian communities together, the idea of a film festival took birth.

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