"The Thursday marathon meeting initiated by Imam began at 11am and ended at 5pm. It was one of several high-level meetings designed to end the refugee sit-in crisis. The sprightly septuagenarian, who is performing in the hit play Bodyguard every evening, showed extraordinary enthusiasm and stamina. It has been some six weeks now since the Sudanese asylum-seekers gathered in a park near the Mohandessin mosque. Authorities expressed deep concern over the humanitarian conditions of the protesters.
"The refugees were initially reluctant to embrace any of the UNHCR's offers. The UNHCR said that it would review the cases of asylum-seekers for one-time assistance based on a detailed list of names to be forwarded to the UNHCR by Sunday. By time of going to press, the list had not been completed. The UN body offered to organise the return to southern Sudan refugees who decide of their own free will to repatriate. Indeed, Imam insisted on voluntary repatriation given the still volatile situation in Sudan. The Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement on 9 January 2005, but the situation on the ground is tense and conditions are unlivable in some areas, asylum-seekers argue."
I remember that the Sudanese I encountered at All Saints were not terribly impressed with the UNHCR, and really feared being forced to return when they weren't sure the current peace deal would hold. Their condition in Cairo, meanwhile, is pretty bad.
UPDATE: Here's an article on the protest:
"'We will remain in this park until our demands are met. We are prepared to die,' Amer, a leader of the Refugee Voices told Al-Ahram Weekly. 'We will wait here, we will die here. We have no other place to go,' another protester chipped in. Amer said that so far there has been seven deaths among the Sudanese camped at the park, including a toddler and an adolescent girl. 'They died because of the wretched conditions,' Amer explained. The Sudanese gathered in the park have been unsuccessful in their claim to asylum, on which the UNHCR has final authority.
"Most of the protesters are restrained, the impromptu camp orderly despite increasingly harsh conditions, though emotions occasionally flair. Medical supplies are allowed into the park and a Sudanese doctor, himself a refugee, visits regularly. As best as possible, a modicum of hygiene is adhered to. Calls of nature are answered care of the Mustafa Mahmoud Mosque, and concerned individuals and organisations regularly hand out food, blankets and clothing. Cairene nights, however, are now getting colder as temperatures drop to less than 10 Celsius degrees. Nonetheless, a group of some 2,000 people loiter about, refusing to leave the park. Some of the refugees have day jobs and the numbers swell on weekends when refugees who work come to the park in solidarity with those who have taken up full-time the self-imposed ordeal."
Their complaints and hopes definitely bring back memories.