Friday, December 30, 2005

Ten Die As Egyptian Police Break Up Sudan Protest

Associated Press December 30, 2005 By Samer Elatrash
At least 10 Sudanese refugees died and around 50 were injured on Friday when Egyptian police dispersed a three-month sit-in by thousands of Sudanese demanding to be moved to another country, officials said.
The head of the local ambulance service, who did not want to be named, said 20 bodies had been taken to medical centers, but the number could not immediately be confirmed.
The Interior Ministry said 10 people had died in what it said was a stampede among the protesting refugees, who have been camped at the site in an affluent part of Cairo. It said 75 police officers were also injured when they tried to move them.
Witnesses said about 2,000 riot police stormed the camp site early on Friday and beat those inside with truncheons and sticks after officials had failed to persuade them to board buses waiting to take them to another site.
Pools of blood were visible on the pavement as men in the camp fought back with sticks and hurled bottles at the riot police, who also fired water cannon to try to disperse them.
About 4,000 police in total ringed the site, near the offices of the U.N. refugee agency, where the Sudanese had set up camp in squalid conditions in protest against what they said was poor treatment since they fled Sudan's lengthy civil war.
"The security forces were present to ensure a process of transporting those mentioned (Sudanese) and to prevent squatting," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Reuters witnesses said there were about six unconscious Sudanese, some of them young children, lying on the ground.
A doctor who examined a girl aged about four who was brought to him after being found unconscious said: "She's dead."
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called the deaths at the camp a tragedy but a Sudanese official said Egyptian security forces were entitled to end the sit-in.
"There is no justification for such violence and loss of life," High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said in a statement.
A UNHCR spokesman said the agency had urged Egyptian authorities to deal with the situation peacefully. Egyptian police had not told UNHCR officials they would try to move the protesters on Friday, Astrid Van Genderen Stort said.
"The Egyptian government was within its rights to re-establish its control," said Sudanese presidential adviser Mahjoub Fadl in comments carried by Egypt's official Middle East News Agency (MENA).
"Reports indicate that most of the deaths were children, and they are the weakest in a stampede situation," he added.
The protesters said they wanted the UNHCR to arrange for them to be flown out of Egypt.
"Most Sudanese refugees have been subjected to violence in Egypt. We don't want to be here any more," said one Sudanese protester who gave his name as Wilson.
After police cleared the area, Wilson and a Sudanese woman who was in the camp told Reuters hundreds of those picked up were being held in two camps run by the security forces, who were checking their identities.
"Many of us are wounded and suffering ... The police are calm now and ... are processing us," Wilson said.
The UNHCR has said it is prepared to give more help to Sudanese people in Egypt fleeing conflict at home, but cannot arrange for all of them to be resettled in another country.
Sudan's two-decade north-south civil war made 4 million people homeless and a separate conflict in the western Darfur region has produced a further 2 million refugees.
A January peace agreement ended the north-south civil war but many Sudanese say it is not safe to return home as the deal is fragile.



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