CAIRO: Sept. 29: A small group of around 20 Sudanese refugees, asylum seekers and failed asylum seekers begins a sit-in protest in a park in central Cairo, close to the office of the UN refugee Agency, UNHCR.
The protestors carry placards saying “No to voluntary repatriation to Sudan, “We want resettlement and “No to local integration in Egypt. Their principal demand is resettlement in a third country. By Oct. 10, their numbers increased to between 1,000 and 1,500 people.
October-December: UNHCR staff meets with protest leaders and representatives nine times. NGOs, churches, the Egyptian authorities, Sudanese personalities and opposition leaders, Egyptian personalities and mediators participate on different occasions in these meetings, which remain inconclusive. UNHCR twice partially suspends its operations for a day due to security concerns, but says it operations were not halted entirely.
Dec. 9: A protestor s child dies in the park, which remains the site of the protest. The child could have been saved if taken out of the area, as medical aid had been offered, UNHCR said. The park becomes a health, sanitation, safety and security risk. The number of protestors, meanwhile, fluctuates between 1,000 and 2,500.
Dec. 17: An agreement to end the sit-in is reached between UNHCR, Egyptian authorities and protest representatives. But it is reported that protest leaders fail to convince their people to adhere to the agreement, and protestors who want to leave the park are forced by others to stay. UNHCR staff members are not welcomed in the park by the protestors, the agency said.
Dec. 29: A massive operation is launched by Egyptian security forces to evacuate the park by force. Twenty-seven protesters die and hundreds are injured.
Approximately 4,000 officers surround the camp and, after warning the demonstrators by loudspeaker to leave, fire water cannons into the crowd. They then enter by force, beating protesters indiscriminately, according to a Human Rights Watch report.
Between 2,000 and 2,500 are taken to detention camps. Of the detainees, up to 1,500 are immediately released when they produce identity cards or documentation proving that they are registered with the UNHCR as asylum seekers or refugees. Some 650 people remain in detention.
Jan. 11: 164 Sudanese are released when UNHCR verifies them as registered asylum seekers or refugees who lost their documentation in the violence of Dec. 29.
Jan. 17: Following press reports suggesting the possibility of involuntary repatriation to Sudan for some of those involved in the protest, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces that no immediate deportations will be carried out. The ministry does not, however, give guarantees for the future.
Jan. 18: 250 women, children and Darfurians are released from detention.
Jan. 26: UNHCR meets a deadline set by the Egyptian government and completes assessment interviews with the remaining 183 detainees. The refugee agency urges the immediate release of 14 verified asylum seekers or refugees and reiterates its recommendation that none of the other detainees be deported.
Jan. 30: Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issue guarantees that none of the remaining detainees will be deported. IRIN