Egyptian immigration

2011-02-12 12:12:03

Egyptians have never emigrated in large numbers from their homeland. In the U.S. census of 2000 and the Canadian census of 2001, 142,832 Americans and 41,310 Canadians claimed Egyptian descent. The largest concentrations of Egyptians in the United States are in the New York metropolitan area (especially Jersey City and Manhattan), Los Angeles, and Chicago. Quebec was the preferred destination for most Egyptians during the early phrase of immigration, though by 2001 Toronto and Montreal had equally large communities.
Egypt occupies 383,900 square miles of the northeast corner of Africa between 23 and 32 degrees north latitude. The Mediterranean Sea forms its border to the north; Israel and the Gaza Strip, to the east; Sudan, to the south; and Libya, to the west. Egypt is mostly barren excepting the fertile Nile Valley along which most of the population lives. In 2002, the population was estimated at 69,536,644, with more than 10 million in the capital city of Cairo. More than 90 percent of Egyptians areMuslim, and about 6 percent are Coptic Christians. Egypt is an ancient nation with archaeological records of native dynasties dating back to 3200 B.C. The Persians invaded Egypt in 341 B.C. and were followed by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, and Arabs. The Mamluks ruled from 1250 until 1517 when the Ottoman Turks added Egypt to their empire. Britain assumed administration of Egypt following Turkish decline and maintained power until 1952, when Egypt gained its independence following a military uprising. A republic was proclaimed in 1953 and has remained relatively stable. Between 1948 and 1979, Egypt participated in several wars against Israel. Though Egypt lost the Sinai Peninsula in 1967, it regained it by negotiation in 1982 and became the first Arab state to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. In 1991, Egypt gave political and military support to Allied forces during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. Throughout the 1990s and into the 21st century a strong element of Islamic fundamentalism was present in Egypt, though the government officially condemned it.
Egyptian society has historically migrated little. The earliest emigrants from Egypt were not Egyptian at all, but rather Armenian refugees from the Ottoman Empire who had first settled in Egypt before immigrating to the United States in the 1920s (see Armenian immigration). Following World War II (1939–45), Egyptians immigrated to North America mainly for economic and educational opportunities, though a small number of Copts began to find their way to the United States. By the 1960s, an increasing number were emigrating for political reasons. Copts and Jews often felt isolated in an increasingly nationalistic atmosphere, and they occasionally qualified as refugees. Even when they were not persecuted, they often found few opportunities in the predominantly Muslim society. After Egypt’s defeat in the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, a small but steady exodus began. In the decade after 1967, about 15,000 Egyptians, mainly Copts, came to the United States, including many scientists and other professionals. As economic power in the Middle East shifted from Egypt to the Persian Gulf States in the 1970s, the Egyptian economy declined and many well-trained Egyptians found themselves without jobs. Poorer, unskilled labor tended to work in other Middle Eastern countries, while the better educated, especially if they were Christian, came to the United States or Canada. Most settled in the greater New York area, but others began to settle in Washington, D.C., southern California, Illinois, and Michigan. Between 1992 and 2002, more than 50,000 Egyptians immigrated to the United States.
A few usually well-to-do Egyptian immigrants came to Canada during the 1950s; however, most between 1956 and 1966 were non-natives. Of the 8,825 immigrants during that period, 32 percent were Armenians; 15 percent, Lebanese; 11 percent, Greeks; 6 percent, Jews; and 3 percent, Italians. Between 1967 and 1975, Egyptians were generally welcomed in Canada because of their high levels of education and training, and about three-quarters chose to settle in Quebec Province, mostly in Montreal. By the mid- 1970s, however, a greater number of native Egyptians were more comfortable with English and took advantage of the jobs produced by the economic growth in Toronto. By the early 1980s, the annual number of immigrants had declined from about 900 to about 500. With the introduction of new provisions in the Canadian immigration code to encourage investors, Egyptian immigration once again picked up, with 5,455 Egyptians arriving between 1986 and 1991. Of Canada’s 35,980 immigrants in 2001, 12,295 arrived between 1991 and 2001.
See also Arab immigration.