'Expel Syrians' campaign scapegoats refugees for Egypt's economic woes

'Expel Syrians' campaign scapegoats refugees for Egypt's economic woes
A campaign calling for the expulsion of Syrians and a boycott of their businesses has attempted to blame Egypt's economic woes on refugees.
2 min read
10 January, 2024
Many Syrians have gone on to start successful businesses in Egypt, especially in the restaurant sector [Getty]

A recent social media campaign in Egypt called for the immediate expulsion of Syrians and a boycott of their businesses, blaming them for the country's economic woes, The New Arab’s Arabic language sister outlet Al-Araby Al-Jadeed reported on Tuesday.

This campaign, mainly driven by unknown figures, has gained traction on platforms like X, Facebook, and TikTok.

Most of the campaign’s Arabic-language hashtags, which included  “#Go_Back_Syrian_Build_Your_Country”, “#Egypt_for_Egyptians” and “#Settlement_of_Refugees_a_Disaster”, failed to gain much traction. Only the slogan “#Boycott_Syrian_Shops” managed to reach a fairly wide audience, with 40,000 views.

Some of the figures involved in the anti-Syrian hate campaign have previously participated in counter-campaigns against boycotts of Western companies that are perceived to support Israel. Others have previously organised on social media with the slogan “Long Live Egypt” in support of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.

This prompted some Egyptians to accuse the anti-Syrian campaigners of belonging to the “electronic brigades” of Sisi’s government, mobilising to distract citizens from the financial crisis that is forcing Egyptians to struggle through an inflation-driven cost of living crisis, as well as Israel's brutal assault on Gaza

Upon scrutinising the accounts contributing to the campaign by repeating hashtags with slogans such as “#Long_Live_Egypt" and “#Egypt_Fighting_Existential_War”,  an Al-Araby Al-Jadeed analysis found these accounts were often spreading pro-government propaganda.

Some comments, calling for putting Egypt's interest first, demanded the exclusion of Syrians and all Arabs, as part of a “National Rescue Initiative” and “Popular Campaign for a Country without Refugees” to preserve Egyptian identity, with ethnic definitions of Egyptians accompanied by pharaonic imagery.

Experts believe these xenophobic campaigns are artificial and do not reflect the reality within Egyptian society and the integration of Syrian refugees there.

Live Story

Interest in settling in Egypt has grown among Syrian refugees, attracted by the prospect of a safe haven preserving their Arab identity. Law firms and consultancies in Egypt are responding to these inquiries, facilitating their immigration processes.

Syrians have become an integral part of Egypt's socioeconomic fabric, with Syrian-owned businesses providing jobs to both Syrian refugees and Egyptians

The UN Refugee Agency notes that Egypt hosts approximately 460,000 refugees from 59 countries, with Syrians constituting a large proportion of that figure. Almost all fled to Egypt as a result of the Syrian conflict which broke out in 2011, after President Bashar al-Assad brutally repressed peaceful protests against his rule.