CAIRO,(Reuters) – At least 10 Sudanese protesters died and around 30 were injured on Friday when Egyptian police dispersed a protest by thousands of Sudanese demanding to be relocated to another country, officials said.
The head of the local ambulance service, who did not want to be named, said 20 bodies had been taken to medical facilities, but this figure could not immediately be confirmed.
The Interior Ministry said 10 people had died in what it said was a stampede among the protesters, who had camped at the site in an affluent part of Cairo for more than three months.It said 23 police were also injured in the attempt to move them.
Witnesses had said about 2,000 riot police stormed the camp site early on Friday and beat the people inside with truncheons and sticks after officials failed to persuade the Sudanese to board buses to take them to another site.
Puddles of blood were visible on the pavement as the Sudanese men in the camp fought back with sticks and hurled bottles at the riot police.
About 4,000 police in total ringed the site, near the offices of the U.N. agency that deals with refugees.
"The security forces were present to ensure a process of transporting those mentioned (Sudanese) and to prevent squatting," the Interior Ministry said in a statement.
Reuters witnesses said there were about six unconscious Sudanese, some of them young children, lying on the ground. A doctor who examined a girl aged about four who was brought to him after being found unconscious said: "She”s dead."
The Sudanese had camped at the site in squalid conditions in protest at what they said was poor treatment since fleeing their home country, racked by years of civil war.
The protesters, who did not comply with police demands after being fired on with water cannon, said they wanted the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to arrange for them to be flown out of Egypt.
"Most Sudanese refugees have been subjected to violence in Egypt. We don”t want to be here anymore," said one Sudanese protester who gave his name as Wilson.
The UNHCR has said it is prepared to provide more assistance to Sudanese in Egypt fleeing conflict at home, but cannot arrange for all of them to be resettled in another country.
Sudan”s 21-year-long north-south civil war made 4 million people homeless and a separate conflict in the western Darfur region has turned another 2 million into refugees.
A January peace agreement ended the north-south civil war but many Sudanese say it is not safe to return home as the deal is fragile.
A UNHCR spokesperson said the agency had been in contact with the Egyptian authorities about the protesters.
"The UNHCR has told the Egyptian authorities in meetings that the situation should be dealt with peacefully," Astrid Van Genderen Stort said.
Egyptian police had not told UNHCR officials they would attempt to move the Sudanese protesters on Friday, she added.