Coptic Christians in Egypt have a long history of being persecuted, however, with the advent of the Arab Spring they are getting renewed attention, as the danger to them is obviously increasing. A number of experts attribute this increase in violence against Copts to hard-line Salafi groups seeking to apply Islamic Sharia Law. Publicly the Muslim brotherhood has stressed the rights of Coptic Christians, however, many are wary believing the brotherhood is practicing tagiyya in order to dupe their infidel enemies while they make political gains.
Perhaps the truth about the treatment of Copts can be ascertained from following the headlines – which tell a disturbing and escalating story:
Perhaps this is what is leading to so many Coptic Christians leaving their homeland in search of safety. It is estimated that over 93,000 left Egypt from the period of March, 2011 to September, 2011. The lion’s share of those fleeing have come to the US.
It is estimated that during that period, 16,000 Copts migrated to California, while 10,000 went to New Jersey, 8000 to New York, and 8000 to other American states. Many have family here and are able to gain a legal status through them. However, a second path for Coptic’s to gain a legal status in the United States is to apply for Asylum. For an asylum application to be successful, there are three threshold requirements:
(1) the applicant must establish that s/he fears persecution;
(2) the applicant must prove that the government is involved in, or unable to control, the people responsible for the persecution; and
(3) the persecution must be based on a protected ground, in the case of Copts, this ground is religion.
US asylum adjudicators also look at past persecution. Thus, if an applicant can show that they were previously persecuted, it significantly increases the approval rate. Another aspect looked at is a “pattern and practice" of persecution. This is well documented against Copts in Egypt. The asylum process in the US is fairly straightforward. An attorney prepares and submits the asylum application. The applicant is fingerprinted and scheduled for an interview. A few weeks after the interview, a decision is given. If the interviewer doesn’t approve the application the applicant gets a second chance and can make their case before an immigration judge.
With the current climate in Egypt many Copt’s asylum applications are being granted. The US government is well aware of the danger they are in and both Hillary Clinton and President Obama have made statements against their persecution. Now is possibly the best time in years for Coptic Christians from Egypt to come forward and apply for asylum.