‘If any of them are returned to Syria, their lives could be in grave danger - Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui
The lives of three Syrian men will be put at grave risk if the Egyptian authorities follow through with plans to forcibly send them back to Syria, Amnesty International has warned this evening.
The three were told by the Egyptian authorities yesterday that they would be returned to Syria within 48 hours if they were not able to afford tickets back to either Lebanon, Turkey or Malaysia, where they had initially sought asylum.
The three are among more than 140 refugees and asylum-seekers - including 68 children - unlawfully detained at Rosetta Police Station in Beheira Governorate in Egypt. They have been held at the police station since 14 April, when Egyptian security forces arrested them after they abandoned a treacherous Mediterranean Sea crossing in an attempt to reach Europe. The majority of those held are Syrians and Palestinians who have fled from Syria. There is also one Sudanese and one Eritrean person among the group. A number of those detained, including two of the men at risk of expulsion, are registered with the UN Refugee Agency, the UNHCR.
It is unclear how long the authorities intend to detain the group of refugees, and initial “illegal immigration” charges against them have been dropped. They are being held in unhygienic conditions in a courtyard at the police station. Many of the children have also been unwell due to the harsh conditions faced on the boat before their arrest.
Any deportation of Syrian refugees and asylum-seekers would blatantly violate Egypt’s responsibilities to protect refugees.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
“Forcibly sending back refugees and asylum-seekers who have sought safety in Egypt is a cruel betrayal of the authorities’ international obligation to offer protection to refugees. If any of them are returned to Syria, their lives could be in grave danger.
“Instead of offering much-needed help and support to refugees and asylum-seekers - including families and dozens of young children who have sought sanctuary in Egypt - the authorities have locked them up in a police station in deplorable conditions.
“Egypt must stop shirking its responsibility towards those seeking refuge in Egypt. Many of them have escaped the bloody conflict in Syria, only to face further misery in Egypt. They should be immediately released and granted access to asylum procedures.”
There are currently more than 136,000 registered refugees from Syria in Egypt. Amnesty has documented a number of cases of refugees attempting to cross by boat from Egypt and Turkey, among other countries, to countries in the European Union. Many have been subjected to ill-treatment and detention while attempting to seek safety and security.