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Types of Migration
Internal Migration
Global Labour Mobility
Child Migration
Skilled Migration
Forced Migration
Return Migration

Key Themes
Modelling Causes and Consequences
Links between Migrations
Rural Poverty and Livelihoods
Social Protection
Gender and Generations
Health and Education

UK / international
Albania / Eastern Europe
Ghana / Africa
Egypt / the Middle East
Bangladesh / South Asia




Egypt / the Middle East

Egypt / the Middle East
The Middle East for centuries has witnessed large migratory movements, both internally and across borders. Some people moved in search of better living opportunities, while others were forced out by conflicts and civil wars. Palestinians constitute the largest single group to have been displaced in this region.

Like the rest of the Middle East, migration has always been an important part of Egypt’s history. Until the mid-1950s, Egypt was largely a country of immigration. But increasing economic pressures and high rates of population growth converted Egypt into a country of emigration, coinciding with the oil boom in the Arab Gulf countries and the resulting demand for manpower. Internal migration began as a response to poverty and the uneven distribution of economic activities, and acted as a balancing mechanism when Egyptian migration flows to the Gulf and elsewhere began.

With about 2.7 million Egyptians abroad (1.9 million in the Arab Gulf countries alone), coupled with overpopulation and rampant unemployment, Egyptian migration can be seen as a livelihood and survival strategy. In addition to migrating internationally, over 5 million Egyptians move internally to sustain rural livelihoods. These movements, and the remittance flows they have engendered, have undoubtedly had an impact on development. The Migration DRC research looks at the links between internal and international migration in the Egyptian context, as well as at the particular conditions of Egyptian migrants abroad. A further research project profiles female domestic workers from overseas working in Egypt, and examines their conditions of work and their vulnerabilities.

The Arab states and neighbouring countries in the Middle East are also host to a large number of forced migrants. The region is host to the largest refugee population in the world, estimated by the US Committee for Refugees at 5,289,400 million in 2003. Though official figures tend to include only refugees and asylum seekers in this category, there are others subjected to similar forced movements including the internally displaced, and those forced to move for economic or environmental reasons. While the exact number of such migrants cannot be determined, it is likely to be significantly larger than projections made on the basis of strict definitions.

The Arab region has witnessed vast refugee population flows out of Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, into Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and these movements clearly impact the societies into which they are flowing. Although there are conventions tying countries to accept refugees and provide them protection, such as to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, about half the countries in the Arab world are not signatories to these conventions (e.g. Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, and Libya), thereby accentuating the impact of forced population movements on countries bound by these conventions. Here again, while states might accept refugees, they might still not be able to access any rights.

Coming from a rights perspective, Migration DRC research projects in Egypt, Sudan and Lebanon have sought to assess the impact of forced migration policies and to question the underlying policy assumptions regarding the role forced migrants play in the social and economic fabric of their host societies.

Following a focus on DFID priority countries in 2008-09, CMRS is not currently actively participating in DRC research, but it is still partnering on number of other projects.

  Partner in Egypt
  The Center for Migration and Refugee Studies (CMRS)

  Key Projects

1e: Gendered ‘return home’ - Sudanese refugees are coming back

4a: Impacts of Poverty and Vulnerability on Migration Choice: Ghana and Egypt

4d: The Impact of Migration on Assets for Sending Households

5a: Internal and International Migration in Egypt

6b: Forced Migration and Policy in the Middle East

Whose Rights Count? National and International Responses to the Rights of IDPs in the Sudan

Marginalized Community: The Case of Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

Rights, Needs and Responsibility: Challenges to Rights-Based Advocacy for Non-Palestinian Refugees' Health and Education in Lebanon

6d: A Social Profile and Analysis of Migrant Domestic Employees in Cairo

Film Project
Egyptian Workers in Paris


Contemporary Egyptian Migration: An Overview of Voluntary and Forced Migration, Dec 03 (WP-C3)

Whose Needs are Right? Refugees, Oustees and the Challenges of Rights-Based Approaches in Forced Migration, Dec 03 (WP-T4)

Tackling Poverty-Migration Linkages: Evidence from Ghana and Egypt, Oct 05 (WP-T14)

Access research reports on Egypt and the Middle East at http://www.migrationdrc.org/

  CMRS, AUC, Cairo will organise a short course entitled 'Human Rights, Forced Migration and Development' in Jan 07. CMRS will also be hosting a conference entitled 'Regional Solutions to Forced Migration: Rights and Policies' in June 2007. Details for both are awaited. Further, CMRS will be hosting the IASFM conference in January 2008, where an edited Migration DRC volume on 'Rights, Risks, Policies and Forced Migration' will be officially launched.
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With thanks to IOM and Claudia Natali for the photographs