The other migration

A neat story:

TENERIFE, Canary Islands — It rains little on this island. There are no natural rivers, and the air is full of the dry heat of the nearby Sahara.

But in a ravine on the island’s northern tip, tree limbs drip with water and a tropical forest flourishes, sustained almost entirely by condensation from the low-lying clouds that are regularly pinned against the mountainside.

The area, called Cruz del Carmen, is only one example of the unusual evolutionary habitats on the Canary Islands that fascinated Charles Darwin more than 100 years ago, and that today reveal a new species or subspecies to scientists an average of once every six days.

But the unique plant and animal life here is being steadily overtaken by an invasion of foreign species, which have been entering these Spanish islands in increasing numbers since border checkpoints within the European Union were abolished under the Schengen Agreement a decade ago, according to government officials and scientists here.

Usually you hear about the Canary Islands’ human migration problems. Over the last 2-3 years, hundreds of sub-Saharan African migrants have crossed over from southern Morocco to the Islands, were they are usually caught and then released onto the Spanish mainland if their country of origin cannot be identified (they destroy all ID before they get there.) Not only is the trip dangerous and kills many migrants each year, but Spanish and European authorities are naturally concerned about how to stop the migration.

Ironically, animal and plant migrants are potentially much more dangerous to a country’s economy than people are. After all people tend to be productive, and migrants provide much-needed cheap labor. But imagine if a type of sub-Saharan African insect is introduced that turns out to be deadly to Spanish olive trees…


Paulin Kuanzambi

A day or two before we left Morocco, I went to say goodbye to Paulin Kuanzambi, an Angolan refugee in Morocco who now works with AFVIC (Amis et Familles des Victimes de l’Immigration Clandestine, “Friends and Families of Victims of Clandestine Migration”). Paulin had been great help to me in some stories I did for The World on migration in Morocco.

Paulin was out and I didn’t get to say goodbye. As I just found out, he had been entrapped into a meeting with members of the Moroccan secret service, who posed as journalists, then kidnapped him and another activist and drove them to the border with Algeria. You can a letter from AFVIC (in French) about it it after the jump.

This will be the fourth time that Paulin–who’s been officially recognized as a refugee by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees–is illegally kicked out of Morocco. The secret service agents took his money, hit him and his companion, and then showed them pictures of recent refugee sit-ins in front of the Moroccan office of UNHCR (see previous post on Arabist) and asked questions about the people involved.

I find it incredibly disturbing that the agents posed as journalists–then we wonder why refugees are often leery of the press!

I don’t understand why the Moroccan government–while hosting international conferences on migrants and their “rights”–treats a few thousand refugees on its soil like seditious criminals.

I also don’t understand why UNHCR seems so utterly incapable of fulfilling its mandate and protecting the people it has recognized as refugees. Unless the UNHCR office in Rabat–as the one in Cairo–has little sympathy for refugees who advocate for their rights (I was told that during a recent refugee sit-in, it was the UNHCR office itself that called the Moroccan police).
Continue reading Paulin Kuanzambi

From Mansoura to Montana

11 Egyptian students from Mansoura University on an exchange program to Montana have disappeared:

(AP) WASHINGTON Eleven Egyptian students who arrived in the United States last month are being sought by authorities after failing to turn up for an exchange program at Montana State University.

The Egyptian men were among a group of 17 students who arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York from Cairo on July 29 with valid visas, according to U.S. authorities and university officials.

While a terrorist threat is certainly nothing to overlook, I bet they’re finding undeclared jobs (an incredible number of cab drivers in New York appear to be Egyptian) and having a great time. In other words, pursuing the immigrant to America’s dream for the past 200 years.

World Refugee Day in Morocco

Today is World Refugee Day. I recently received an email announcing this forum for Sudanese refugees in Egypt and elsewhere. Good luck to them, and I hope the debate on the recent handling of last year’s sit-in continues there.

Meanwhile, in Rabat, Ursula went to a sit-in in front of UNHCR’s office this morning. Here is what she reports:

I wanted to write something on immigration when I came to Morocco, and I’ve been researching a story for the last few weeks. The thing is, there are (at least) two types of immigration going on: the immigration of Moroccans to Europe, and the immigration of SubSaharan Africans to Morocco (and then perhaps Europe). This post will be about the second. The terrible irony being that Morocco—a country from which millions have emigrated to Europe, where they face discrimination—treats immigrants and refugees on its own soil in a shameful manner.

Continue reading World Refugee Day in Morocco

Report on killing of Sudanese protesters released

The Forced Migration and Refugee Studies Center at the AUC has released its report on what happened during three-month sit-in of Sudanese refugees in Cairo’s Mohandiseen district, which ended bloodily in late December. The Egyptian government is condemned for the violence, and the irresponsibility of some of the protest leaders (who nurtured unrealistic expectations of resettlement among protesters) is revealed, but UNHCR’s handling of the situation really looks bad.

Excerpts follow.

Continue reading Report on killing of Sudanese protesters released

An announcement and a review

As you can see in the post below, there is a new poster on This website was never meant to be a personal blog, and Ursula Lindsey, who has written about Egypt for various newspapers and magazines, is the first of hopefully many other contributors you will see as the site matures. It is a labor of love and obviously a work in progress that depends largely on how much spare time I have. In the meantime, enjoy Ursula’s posts and do check out her other work, notably over at, where she will be soon be starting a regular column on Cairo. We’ll keep you informed.

Getting back to her review of Galal Amin’s Whatever else happened to the Egyptians, I thought it may interest readers to take a look at my own review of Whatever happened to the Egyptians, Amin’s first book in this series, which was published in the Cairo Times in December 2000. It’s not online, so click below to view the full post.

Continue reading An announcement and a review

EU on anti-Semitism

The report that the European Commission prevented from being printed has been unofficially posted for download on an EU website. The report is said by Jewish organizations to have been held because it linked anti-Semitism with Muslim and Arab immigrant communities in Europe, although the EU itself gives different reasons:

In February this year, the Management Board of the EUMC, which consists of independent experts in the field of human rights, took a collective decision to continue its research on anti-Semitism with a view to publishing a comprehensive report at a later stage, rather than making public the final draft of the Synthesis Report by the Berlin Centre. This decision was based on the EUMC’s mandate to provide reliable, objective and comparable data to the Community and its Member States. Year on year the EUMC strives to improve the reliability, objectivity and comparability of the information it delivers on all forms of racism. In this case the data set was considered too narrow to proceed with a publication.

. Read for yourselves and come up with your own conclusions.