Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Blog

By Matt Haugen
Summer 2013 Intern

It’s no secret that Egypt’s Coptic Christians have endured significant burdens from the political upheaval and tumult occurring in the country. Going as far back as Mubarak’s ouster in 2011, Copts have feared and encountered targeted attacks. Under Morsi, Copts were restricted in their ability to exercise their own religion and following his removal, they’ve been blamed for conspiring against him. As the situation in Egypt continues to develop, the future of Egypt’s Copts remains unclear. Recent events suggest that they are presented with new opportunities—such as positions on the interim cabinet—while also being exposed to old persecutions—being used as political scapegoats.

A Church official suggested that in the past year alone, some 30,000 Copts have fled Egypt, seeking asylum in places like the US, Britain, and the Netherlands. Reports from the Department of Homeland Security suggest that asylum requests from Egyptians have more than quintupled over the past three years, yet these requests don’t specify religious affiliation. Furthermore, there’s no way to know how many more have come to the US and not yet filed for asylum, as it can be filed as late as a year after arrival. NPR ran a story back in January of this year suggesting that the Coptic population in the US has grown by as much as 100,000 since 2011; a number which has been denied by Coptic Church leaders in Egypt.

What is certain, though, is the crisis faced by Coptic asylum seekers in the US. While the need for assistance exists, resources for incoming Copts are hard to find and the few that exist are overwhelmed. A Tampa-based group reports that they are resettling upwards of 10 families per week. New York and New Jersey are currently two of the primary destinations for Coptic asylum seekers.

While it is unclear whether these asylum seekers will remain here in the long term, potential resources needed immediately range from medical care, to housing, to employment. Coptic asylum seekers are far from helpless, but the need exists for a better support structure to deal with the mounting issues- addressing the need for basic human services would be a good place to start.

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