Egypt: Exploitive Marriages to Syrian Refugees

The fear that local men would exploit refugee women by ‘marrying’ them has raised the hackles of women’s groups in several Arab countries. Citing staggering marriage figures-of uncertain provenance-Egyptian women’s groups hope to force Cairo to intervene.

Describing it as human trafficking, the Egyptian National Council for Women has said there were 12,000 cases of marriage between Syrian refugee women and Egyptian men in one year alone. In its press release, the council denounced the large number of marriages, categorically rejecting the exploitation of refugees.

The council pointed to a memorandum that the Europe-based International League of Egyptian Women sent to President Mohammed Morsi, demanding that the government “step in and directly put a stop to the young men of Egypt taking advantage of Syrian women, who are the country’s guests, for as little as 500 Egyptian pounds.” The memorandum suggested that the practice is widespread in the [Cairo] neighborhoods of 6th of October City, Heliopolis, 10th of Ramadan, along with Alexandria, Daqahlia, Gharbia and Qena.

The Egyptian National Council for Women dispatched two letters; one to the Minister of the Interior, General Mohammed Ibrahim, and the second to the Minister of Justice, Judge Ahmed Mekki, asking them to help put a stop to these marriages, which exploit the difficult situations of refugee women.

The UN refugee agency says Egypt has some 20,000 Syrians, but unofficial figures say the number of Syrians residing in Egypt since the beginning of the protests and violence in their country in March 2011, is between 60 and 70 thousand [and has since risen to 100,000].