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Syrian Refugees in Egypt

Photographer: Pau Rigol


Since the start of the conflict in Syria back in 2011 hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the country seeking refuge from violence they face both from government forces and from various rebel factions. What had started as protests demanding political changes muted to a long and ongoing conflict culminating in 2013 by the use of chemical weapons and tens of thousands of deaths.


Most civilians living in the conflict areas of Syria had to flee with their families and any savings they had to neighboring Jordan, Libya, and Turkey while many others reached Egypt or Algeria, where visa was not required for them to enter the territory.


Unlike in Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey, most of the about 300,000 Syrian refugees in Egypt do not have to live in refugee camps; they stay in rented accommodations. These are found in Cairo suburbs and in Alexandria.


The refugees’ situation was difficult as they didn’t have a clear outlook of when they could return home, but it became even worse after the ousting of Muslim Brotherhood’s president Mohamed Morsi, as many Syrians were viewed as his supporters.


This change pushed many families and youngsters to attempt to flee to Europe in rudimentary boats. Such boats left from Alexandria earlier in the summer trying to reach Italy and hundreds have gone missing or died before reaching their destination. Those who were caught by the authorities trying to cross to Europe by sea illegally had been arrested and their passports taken, and then later released but their situation remains very difficult as most have limited resources after having finished up their savings.


To make a living, some of the Syrians opened businesses mainly in food hospitality, or took up odd jobs usually different from what they used to do in their home country. Amongst the refugees are many children who lost their relatives and experienced very traumatic situations in war-torn Syria.