Ahmed, a 28-year Syrian refugee, sought to leave Egypt heading to Turkey. Ahmed told Daily News Egypt that he did not want to leave, but that he failed to obtain a residency permit since he arrived from the Syrian city of Aleppo in August 2012.
“I came alone and have not been able to go back to Syria to visit my parents, fearing I would not be allowed a second entry to Egypt,”Ahmed said. “I do not want to leave; I have become accustomed to the Egyptian culture and made friends,” he said in an almost perfect Egyptian accent.
Ahmed entered Egypt through Cairo International Airport with a tourist visa that he was able to renew twice, for a period of six months each time.
“But even then it was not easy, given the complex process and amount of needed proof documents,” he said.
“During curfew-hours periods, we literally had to leave our houses the minute the curfew was lifted near dawn to be able to catch waiting lines,” Fallaha recalled. He said his main issue was that the status of his stay in Egypt has become illegal – he can neither leave with a guaranteed return, nor have his parents visit him.
According to Ahmed he cannot obtain a residency permit, because he is neither a student nor the parent of one. Yet, he claimed that a student friend of his got a permit only for one month.
“There are widespread ‘underground’ means for everything, including facilitating Syrians’ entry to Egypt, but how am I to pay $2,000 or more to be able to get my family to come?” he asked. Moreover, he added, he did not want to pursue illegal means to correct a situation where he has “not committed anything wrong”.
Ahmed said his cousin, a medical student, was born and has lived in Egypt. She had to leave for studies in Germany, but is now unable to return due to the expiration of her residence permit, according to Ahmed.
He said: “Is it possible that you were born in a country and stayed in it for 20 years, then become banned from it?”
UNHCR media spokesperson Marwa Hashem confirmed that large numbers of Syrian refugees have been making their way out of Egypt over the past year.
While the number of Syrian refugees registered with the UNHCR was initially more than 140,000, it has now decreased to approximately 130,000. This is likely due to large migrations out of Egypt.
Ahmed said that most Syrian refugees are trying to reach Europe by any means, because there they find proper assistance and comfort. “But if it was up to me, I would stay in Egypt,” he said.
*The interviewee’s name has been changed for reasons of his personal safety.