Depression at the Sallum Refugee Camp in Egypt

During the Libyan civil war, many migrants fled to neighboring countries seeking for refuge and protection. During the crises, much of the media spotlight was centered on the toppling of dictators in the Arab world. However, very little attention was directed to the plight of the refugees in Tunisia’s Choucha (or Shousha) camp and Egypt’s Salloum (or Sallum) camp. In a recent post, I discussed the Choucha camp and its cessation of activities at the end of the month here. Now, we will redirect our attention to the Egyptian camp of Salloum. A sobering, yet detailed, description of the camp was provided by the Atlantic two years ago:

Posted outside the tent cities, made of UN logo-emblazoned tarps that are fastened with boulders to fight the blistering winds, men peddle wares from shampoo to key chains and sunglasses to canned goods.

Women wash their dishes and their hair with water from vats erected in an open section of the camp. Children kick around undersized basketballs turned soccer balls and play tug-of-rope, escaping the monotony of what has become their new life here.

Between the Egyptian border post of Salloum and the east Libyan frontier, this refugee camp, a single square mile in size, has come to house hundreds of migrants who have fled the violence in Libya but are unable to legally enter Egypt…

A description  is, of course, never enough to actually visualize the harsh and unforgiving situation. Here is an amateur video recording of the camp posted nine months ago:

And here is the latest news story of the Salloum camp: “Depression grips forgotten refugees stranded at Egyptian-Libyan border” by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees:

– Around 9 a.m. Maha* went to the clinic in Sallum refugee camp just inside Egypt’s border with Libya and doused herself with gasoline; only quick intervention by clinic volunteers stopped the Sudanese refugee before she could strike a match.

“I have nowhere to go and nothing to do. Life seems to have stopped in this place, we are in an invisible spot in the world and everybody turned their back on us,” Maha told UNHCR after her suicide attempt.

Maha’s despair is not unique. Since Sallum was established in the wake of the revolution in Libya to host people fleeing the growing violence, UNHCR was able to resettle some 900 refugees from the camp to third countries. But most of the current 900 refugees and 350 asylum-seekers at Sallum have found themselves in legal limbo…

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