The Africans risking all on the Egypt-Israel border
Page last updated at 10:10 GMT, Sunday, 6 June 2010 11:10 UK
By Yolande Knell
BBC News, Cairo
This poor Cairo neighbourhood is home to an increasing number of African migrants and refugees, but many do not want to stay.
In his sparsely decorated apartment, Yahya Mohamed Idris, a refugee from Darfur in Sudan, explains how he risked everything trying to move to Israel.
"I decided to go to Israel because people who went before told me the situation was much better over there," he says.
"I left my country looking for safety and security but in Egypt I found harassment and more problems.
"Work here is difficult and they throw stones and tomatoes at me on the street. They curse at me and call me 'the black'."Like hundreds of others each month, Idris, 31, paid Bedouin people-smugglers to take him and his family on the risky journey to the Egypt-Israel border.
It costs more than $600 (Â£414) travelling by bus and then hidden on a lorry. Finally, they were left in the Sinai desert late at night.
Egyptian forces quickly spotted them.
"While we were crossing the border they opened fire," Idris recalls.
"We surrendered and sat on the ground and they started beating us and shooting all around. My wife fainted and the kids were screaming."
Idris was arrested and imprisoned for a year. Since his release several months ago, he has been unable to find his wife and two children.
For others, the situation is even worse.
At least 16 sub-Saharan African refugees and migrants have been shot dead at the border this year. Many others suffered injuries.
"This is a common problem. When people try to cross the border to Israel, the Egyptian security shoot and kill them," comments Abdalla Hanzal, who works with a refugee support group.A deal struck between Libya and Italy in 2009 has cut off a popular sea route to Europe for illegal African migrants and helped direct the flow towards Israel, which is seen as offering better work opportunities and more Western standards.
Increasingly Sudanese, Ethiopians and Eritreans travel directly to the border after arriving in Egypt.
Israel says the arrival of almost 15,000 refugees and asylum-seekers has put strain on security and welfare systems.