Egypt says needs help, not criticism over Syrian refugees

In a report issued Monday, HRW asserted that Egyptian authorities had detained over 1,500 Syrian refugees, most of whom were subsequently deported.

Egypt says needs help, not criticism over Syrian refugees

World Bulletin/News Desk

Egypt's Foreign Ministry has responded to a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) chastising Cairo for its recent decision to detain hundreds of Syrian refugees, saying rights organizations should offer help rather than censure.

"Instead of criticizing us, such organizations should offer alternatives by requesting rich Western countries to open their doors to Syrian refugees so as to ease the burdens on countries like Egypt that are economically unstable," ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Ati told Anadolu Agency.

"We also expect getting more financial support so we can provide refugees with better services," he added.

In a report issued Monday, HRW asserted that Egyptian authorities had detained over 1,500 Syrian refugees, most of whom were subsequently deported – including scores forced to return to war-torn Syria.

The international rights watchdog said that 400 Palestinians and 250 children – some as young as two months old – had been among the refugees recently detained.

Authorities say they were arrested for attempting to illegally migrate from Egypt to the European Union.

Abdel-Ati confirmed that detained refugees had been picked up for attempting to illegally immigrate to Europe via Egypt.

"Those refugees arrested for attempting to illegally immigrate have been temporarily detained until they can be deported to the country of their choosing, not including Syria," he said.

Child refugees are being held with their parents at the latter's request, Abdel-Ati added.

"All Syrian refugees in Egypt have been integrated into the Egyptian community," the ministry spokesman asserted. "They don't live in refugee camps like in other countries."

"Egyptian government policy is to welcome and provide help to Syrian refugees as much as available resources allow," he added.

The HRW report noted that more than 1,200 of the detained refugees, including about 200 of Palestinian origin, had been obliged to depart Egypt, including dozens who had since returned to Syria.

Egyptian security officials were quoted in the report as having acknowledged that detained refugees were being held indefinitely until their deportation.

According to HRW, Palestinian refugees who flee from the conflict in Syria to Egypt are especially vulnerable, since Egyptian government policy forbids them from seeking protection with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

Egyptian authorities give only two options to detained Palestinians: go to Lebanon, where they are only permitted to enter legally on a 48-hour transit visa, or return to Syria, the report claimed.

A Palestinian father who had tried to set sail for Europe from Egypt with his three-year-old son, brother and four-year-old niece, was quoted by HRW as saying that he and his charges had faced a stark choice: "Board the boat and risk our lives for dignity, or return to Syria to die."

Under ousted president Mohamed Morsi, Egypt had welcomed Syrian refugees, with the government providing them with unconditional entry visas and residence permits.

But Syrians say things changed dramatically following Morsi's July 3 ouster by Egypt's powerful military establishment.

Since then, they say, authorities have detained scores of Syrian nationals, accusing them of lacking valid residence permits or of having failed to renew old ones.

Last month, rights watchdog Amnesty International accused Egypt of unlawfully detaining and deporting hundreds of Syrian refugees who had fled the deadly conflict in their homeland.

Abdel-Ati, for his part, dismissed the allegations as "inaccurate" and not reflective of "the real condition of the Syrians in the country [Egypt]."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 12 Kasım 2013, 12:02