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GSSC Seminar Series
21 November 2023


On Idle Possibilities and Missed Chances: Refugee Rights in Egypt and the Current Response to the Sudanese Conflict

(Elena Habersky, American University Cairo)



This presentation will briefly investigate the rights of refugees in Egypt and the numerous barriers that exist that prevent their enjoyment. Specifically, the presentation will examine the implementation of international and regional legal frameworks relating to refugees and asylum-seekers by two key stakeholders in Egypt, namely the host state and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). In doing this, the presentation investigates, first, whether the host state and/or UNHCR retains a preference for a legal framework found at one scale of analysis over the other, and second, if international law and in particular, regional law and governance frameworks could be better utilised by all key stakeholders to improve the situation for refugees on the ground. Through the collection of empirical data from interviews and focus groups, a clear picture emerges of regional legal frameworks and norms remaining on the periphery or simply being ignored by the two key stakeholders responsible for implementing protection mechanisms. Instead, refugee rights are understood through a complex hybrid of international norms and national policy. This appears like a missed opportunity. This is especially pertinent as hundreds of thousands of Sudanese migrants are crossing the Sudanese-Egyptian border, seeking safety and protection from a conflict that shows no signs of abating.


Elena Habersky is the current CMRS Project Coordinator of the "Dialogue on Migration Governance" Project, a joint venture between the American University in Cairo's (AUC) Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS) and the University of Cologne, as well as a Consultant for Tafawol, a Sudanese Refugee-Led Organization in Cairo. She was previously the Project Leader of the Egyptian Migration Hub (EHUB) and the Refugee Entitlements in Egypt Project, both undertaken at CMRS. She has a decade of experience working on migration issues in the MENA region, having previously worked in Jordan, and has also conducted research with refugees in Uganda. She has an MA in Migration and Refugee Studies from CMRS at AUC and a BS in International Studies from the University of Scranton. She is on Twitter @bur_ski .