Egypt's decision to deny entry to Syrians fleeing the conflict condemned
*New visas now made mandatory for entry
*At least 95 people sent back to Syria
The Egyptian authorities should not be recklessly denying entry to Syrians and must provide anyone fleeing the conflict in Syria the opportunity to seek asylum, Amnesty International has said after reports that some 259 people were turned back at Cairo Airport on Monday.
Syrian nationals were denied entry to Egypt on the grounds that the passengers had not obtained the newly-required visas or security permits. Previously, Syrian nationals did not require visas to enter Egypt.
While the Egyptian authorities are entitled to regulate the right to enter and stay in Egypt, they must do so in full respect of their international human rights and refugee law obligations, said Amnesty.
Those refused entry on Monday include 95 passengers sent back to Syria on a Syrian Airlines flight to Latakia, in Syria; 55 flown on a Middle East Airlines flight to Lebanon; some 25 sent to Jordan, and six to Abu Dhabi. Amnesty understands that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) did not have access to any of these people at Cairo Airport and it is not known what happened to those returned to Syria. Three other Syrians are also being held in limbo at Alexandria Airport after they were denied re-entrance to Egypt despite having registered in the country with the UNHCR.
A statement on the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website on Monday said that “the decision to impose an entrance visa on Syrian nationals is a decision based on the conditions that Egypt is currently passing through”.
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said:
“Given the scale of violence, bloodshed and human rights abuses currently taking place in Syria, it is unthinkable that Egypt should deny Syrians fleeing for their lives safety.
“No one should be forced to return to Syria due to the serious risk of indiscriminate violence and persecution.
“We urge the authorities to ensure that Egypt continues to be a place of refuge for Syrians even at this turbulent time.”