World Bulletin / News Desk
Egyptian authorities have detained over 1,500 Syrian refugees and deported most of them, including scores who returned to war-torn Syria, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported.
In a report released Monday, the international rights watchdog said that 400 Palestinians and 250 children – some as young as two months old – were among the refugees recently detained by Egypt.
They were arrested for attempting to illegally migrate from Egypt to the European Union.
The HRW report noted that more than 1,200 of the detained refugees, including about 200 Palestinians, 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 departure.
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 from 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.
"Egypt is leaving hundreds of Palestinians from Syria with no protection from Syria's killing fields, except indefinite detention in miserable conditions," Joe Stork, HRW deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, said.
"Egypt should immediately release those being held and allow UNHCR to give them the protection they are due under international law," he added.
A Palestinian father who had set sail for Europe with his three-year-old son, brother, and four-year-old niece, was quoted as saying that they had a stark choice to make: "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 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.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Ati, for his part, dismissed the allegations as "inaccurate" and not reflective of "the real condition of the Syrians in the country [Egypt]."Last Mod: 11 Kasım 2013, 17:04