Training African Refugee Leaders in Cairo

Sent On: 
Mon, 2020-03-16
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The Center for Arab-West Understanding has started a training program for African refugee leaders in Cairo in cooperation with the Anglican Diocese of Egypt, the Comboni Fathers and the Egyptian Moral Rearmament Association.


Egypt is host to around 500,000 recognized refugees but the number of undocumented immigrants runs in the millions. Recognized refugees are allowed to stay here but government services are minimal. For the undocumented migrants this is worse. If they are checked for documents, they might be sent back to their own countries. It is hard to distinguish between undocumented immigrants and genuine refugees. Many have come to escape poverty in their home countries and search for work in Egypt. Some are well educated. Others have given up promising positions in their own countries, such as a pilot from Congo, which shows a genuine fear for returning to their own countries but yet they were not able to obtain recognition as refugee.


Refugees and migrants have the greatest difficulties in finding formal employment. Thus, the overwhelming majority needs to make a living from informal jobs such as cleaning and domestic work. They are mostly living in the poorer parts of Cairo in low-cost and overcrowded housing. AWR friend Hossam Gawdat spoke many years ago about living in a pressure cooker. The higher the social pressures are the highly also tensions, within families, within communities, between refugees and Egyptians. It is far from easy to cope with this.


Dutch broadcasting station Evangelische Omroep (Evangelical Broadcasting cooperation) has a department that collects funds for projects worldwide. In October 2019 we were informed that they wanted to support one-year projects training refugee leaders to cope better with the difficult circumstances their communities are facing. We informed the Africa Teacher Trainers Network of Lori Lawson about this and they prepared a funding request for African refugee leaders in Egypt which Metterdaad accepted but ATTN withdrew since this project turned to be beyond their capacity. Thus, the Center for Arab-West Understanding approached Anglican Bishop Mouneer, one of the founders of the Center. This resulted in a partnership between the Center for Arab-West Understanding, the Anglican Diocese of Egypt, the Comboni Fathers (our partners in our Learning Center for refugees) and the Moral Rearmament Association with whom we share concepts about dialogue. ATTN remains involved with advice and trainers.



The leading entity in this project is the Center for Arab-West Understanding but the Center cannot receive foreign funding without a permit of the Ministry of Social Solidarity which is hard to obtain since the Ministry has not yet issued the executive regulations for the new law of 2019. Thus, the funding went to Refuge Egypt of the Anglican diocese who will be paying for all costs. Our former intern Comfort Dickson from Nigeria became project leader while Dani Missangwa from South Sudan is assistant project leader.


The first session was about transformation. A leader only can transform his/her environment if he or she has been transformed first. The following sessions are on the development of mental & psychological well-being, conflict resolution, enhancing leaders' capacity as counselors, accessing legal aid, and partnering with NGOs and institutions on projects aimed toward community transformation. 


The Corona virus made the government shut down all schools. Thus, also our learning center closed and we were asked to postpone the training sessions. Our trainers are now seeking ways to train the leaders online. It is not easy but we will try to continue work as much as possible.



March 16, 2020


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-chief Arab-West Report