As the world concentrates on the huge flow of Syrian refugees, Africans who have had to flee their countries have often been overlooked, as many of them wait for months to try a far riskier route to a new life in Europe.
According to refugee experts, out of the more than 190,000 asylum seekers and refugees in Egypt, more than one-third come from African countries.
Sumaya is a Sudanese asylum seeker from Sudan and is applying for new papers in Egypt. She said she lost all her papers when she was crossing the sea to reach Italy, but was arrested by Egyptian authorities.
There is no money, there is no one, there is no house, there is no husband, no family, no babies, there is no anything. I cannot wait here.
Egypt has a long history of providing asylum to refugees and at the same time, a traditional route of illegal migration to Europe by sea.
Sumaya’s husband, who fled before her, is now in Europe. She’s been living in Cairo for two years and is desperate to join him.
“There is no money, there is no one, there is no house, there is no husband, no family, no babies, there is no anything. I cannot wait here” she said.
According to the U.N. refugee agency, Since 2014, there has been a steady increase in the number of interceptions of refugees and migrants trying to leave Egypt in an irregular manner.
This year over 4,600 foreign nationals, predominantly Sudanese, Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians, have been arrested for attempting irregular departure from the Northern Coast, a 28 percent increase in departures seen in 2015.
Before she arrived in Egypt, Sumaya said she tried the dangerous smuggler’s route across the sea three times.
“I cannot forget the people dying in front of my eyes. Dying! They tried to catch me, and try to take me and they died. And the body come, I am swimming and the dead body is swimming with me. I cannot forget this all my life,”
Sumaya’s UNHCR asylum seeker application will take months to be processed, but she said she would try her luck again with the smugglers.
Egypt has had a law against human trafficking but the new legislation deals more specifically with illegal migrants.
UN refugee center in th country says many refugees, and migrants may be using Egypt as a transit country, highlighting the need to address the root causes of mixed migration in their countries of origin.