Conditions changed markedly in Egypt as the “Arab Spring” took hold in 2011. Using social media, the population protested against the government, ending in President Mubarak leaving office. As violence continued, many people fled and many sought asylum in the United States.
The change in government, and the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, had a particularly profound effect on Coptic Christians, who have been historically persecuted in Egypt.
Do Many People Gain Asylum From Egypt?
According to the 2013 Annual Flow Report by the Department of Homeland Security, asylum claims from Egypt are granted more than asylum claims from almost any other county. (Only Chinese nationals are granted more.) Grants of Egyptian asylum claims more than tripled from 2011 to 2012.
What Type of Asylum Claims Are Typical From Egypt?
Although students and other activists have begun to apply for asylum in the U.S., Coptic Christians continue to make up the bulk of Egyptian asylum claims here. According to the article, “In Queens, Finding Refuge From Unrest in Egypt,” by Monique El-Faizy in The New York Times (April 19, 2013), many come to the New York area, where there is already a sizable community of Coptic Christians.
Islamic fundamentalists have for years persecuted Coptic Christians, descendants from the Pharaoh who pre-date Islam in Egypt. Periods of calm are typically broken up by sectarian unrest and violence.
Other claims from Egypt include women fleeing domestic violence and forced marriage. Some women apply for asylum because they were mutilated (FGM) or fear that their daughters will be forced to undergo FGM.
What Are Common Reasons for Denial of Asylum Claims from Egypt?
The most common reason for denying an asylum claim from Egypt is that the Immigration Judge or Asylum Officer doesn’t believe the applicant. This is especially true for Coptic Christian claims. If this is the basis of your claim, you will need to start by convincing the judge or officer that you truly are Coptic Christian.
Since the persecutor is not the government in such a case, you will also have to prove to the judge or officer that you cannot safely relocate anywhere in Egypt. Many cases are denied because the judge or officer believes you could live safely in a different city, far away from your persecutors. Judges and officers may not believe that a persecutor will follow you to a different location.
Some judges and officers have a difficult time understanding why you would continue to attend church if you are afraid of harm.
Whatever your claim, if the persecutor is not the government, you will have to explain why the government will not protect you.
What Can Egyptian Asylum Seekers Do to Increase Their Chances of Success?
Coptic Christians should be prepared to answer questions about their faith. These questions can be doctrinal or related to your mode of observation. You should know the Bible and the pillars of your faith and be able to describe the church itself, if you claim to have spent a lot of time there. Be prepared to explain how the persecutor knew you are Coptic Christian and why anyone would want to harm you enough to follow you to a different city in Egypt.
It would be helpful to explain how the Gamaat is connected, to support your contention that they will find you if you go to another city. Also explain how the church is the center of the community, so that any newcomer will be identified in a new location. Explain how central your faith is to your life, to show that you will continue to practice regardless of your fear.
If you have a gender-based claim, be sure to submit reports supporting your experience. For example, a judge or officer may read a country report that states Egypt has laws protecting woman, whereas the reality may be that the laws are not enforced. It is important to find objective evidence supporting your claim.