"Who Can Be Added": The Effects of Refugee Status Determination and Third Country Resettlement Processes on the Marriage Strategies, Rites, and Customs of the Southern Sudanese in Cairo

By Currie, Lorraine | Refuge, Winter 2007 | Go to article overview

"Who Can Be Added": The Effects of Refugee Status Determination and Third Country Resettlement Processes on the Marriage Strategies, Rites, and Customs of the Southern Sudanese in Cairo


Currie, Lorraine, Refuge


Abstract

This study, based on ethnographic research, examines how refugee status determination and third country resettlement processes influence the marriage practices of the southern Sudanese refugee community in Cairo. The study showed that because of their inability to attain socio-economic integration into the host community combined with the growing insecurity of the environment of Cairo for refugees, many southern Sudanese have had to reevaluate their traditional marriage practices and family values to qualify for resettlement and escape to a better life. For example, the expectation of resettlement can directly affect courtship strategies, dowry payments, and couples' decisions regarding having children. Guidelines of UNHCR and/or resettlement countries play a considerable role in these decisions, as do rumours about marriage certification and difficulty in finding suitable partners in the West. In some instances, marriage becomes a business arrangement to secure resettlement. Refugee status denial sometimes has a negative impact on marriage, with spouses blaming each other for performing badly at the status determination interview, leading in some cases to violence and divorce. Sudanese youth with denied refugee status have particular difficulties as their hopes for a brighter future are dashed and with it their prospects of a normal family life.

Resume

Cette etude, basee sur la recherche ethnographique, examine comment la determination du statut de refugie et le processus de reinstallation dans un pays tiers influencent les pratiques en matiere du mariage dans la communaute de refugies de Soudanais du sud vivant au Caire. L'etude a demontre qu'en raison de leur incapacite d'atteindre l'integration socio-economique dans la communaute d'accueil et de l'insecurite grandissante de l'environnement du Caire pour les refugies, beaucoup de Soudanais du sud ont du revoir leurs pratiques traditionnelles entourant le mariage ainsi que leurs valeurs familiales afin de satisfaire aux criteres d'egibilite pour la reinstallation et pouvoir acceder a une vie meilleure. Par exemple, l'espoir de la reinstallation peut directement affecter les strategies pour faire la cour, les paiements de la dot et les decisions des couples quant au fair d'avoir des enfants. Les directives du HCR et/ou des pays de reinstallation, ainsi que les rumeurs concernant la certification de mariage et la difficulte a trouver des partenaires convenables a l'Ouest, jouent un role considerable dans ces decisions. Dans certains cas, le mariage devient un arrangement d'affaires dans le but d'obtenir le droit de reinstallation. Le refus du statut de refugie a quelquefois un impact negatif sur le mariage, avec les epoux se reprochant mutuellement d'avoir fait mauvaise figure a l'interview de determination de statut, menant dans certains cas a la violence et au divorce. Les jeunes soudanais, a qui le statut de refugie a ete refuse, presentent des difficultes particulieres, vu que leurs espoirs d'un avenir plus brillant sont aneantis et avec cela leurs perspectives d'une vie familiale normale.

Introduction

"Who can be added" through marriage to the file of a person recognized as a refugee under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) mandate in the context of Cairo's considerable refugee population has become a security and livelihood issue for the exiled southern Sudanese community, who are on the margins of and unable to integrate into Egyptian society. Reservations entered by Egypt to the UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) severely restrict refugees from exercising their socio-economic rights. (1) Refugees, even if born in Egypt, are not eligible for citizenship. The Four Freedoms reciprocal agreement signed in 2004 ostensibly granting Sudanese and Egyptian nationals freedom of movement, residence, work, and ownership of property in each other's countries is yet to be fully implemented. …

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