In light of our follow-up to the situation of the rights of asylum-seekers and migrants in Egypt, the Refugee Platform in Egypt (RPE) received information about the Egyptian government’s detention of more than two hundred asylum-seekers of Eritrean nationality in various detention centres because of their irregular entry to Egypt.
RPE has documented the conditions of arbitrary detention of asylum seekers in Aswan Governorate, without a fair trial or judicial decisions and without any crime other than entering Egypt irregularly with the aim of requesting asylum.
Detainees in police stations (Daraw, Kom Ombo, Nasr al-Nuba and the Central Security Forces camp in al-Shallal) were arrested in different periods between 2019, 2020 and 2021. Conditions of detention are very poor, as children are held in places designated for adults in crowded, cramped cells, in which they do not receive any kind of medical care. They are not allowed to stand in the sun, and the food provided to them is not sufficient in quantity, quality or nutritional value, and they are not allowed to see their relatives except at intervals and for a few minutes.
The detainees did not obtain their right to a fair trial or detention based on a judicial decision, or to challenge the decision of their detention, and they were not enabled to obtain the right of defence and legal representation from a lawyer of their choice or appointed by an authority Investigation and trial, and they were not informed of any accusations against them.
The detainees requested many times to submit a request for asylum, which was rejected by the authorities of the detention centre, and their relatives did not receive a response from the UNHCR office regarding their request to register their detained relatives. The Passports, Immigration and Nationality Department of the Ministry of Interior refused to hand them over to their relatives who reside in Egypt and have residency permits and a fixed known place of residence, despite the fact that they submitted requests stating the relationship between them.
According to information from a source familiar with the conditions of the detainees, among them are forty-four children. One of these children was born during detention, as the mother was pregnant at the time of her arrest in June 2021, and she was taken out to give birth in a hospital and then returned again to the detention facility. No Children are provided with any kind of special care in terms of nutritional, medical and psychological support.
During the past week and this morning, the Egyptian authorities transferred 53 asylum-seekers, including children, who were detained in Aswan Governorate, for the purpose of presenting them to the Eritrean embassy in Cairo to obtain travel documents to begin their deportation, which is what happened with other cases documented by the Refugee Platform in Egypt in Last October and November, when the Egyptian authorities extracted travel documents for fifteen Eritrean detainees from one family, including children, despite their rejection of the forced deportation, and the authorities did not heed any of the human rights warnings published by The “Refugee Platform in Egypt” and other organizations at the time. The Egyptian government also did not respond to the statement of the Human Rights Council condemning the forced deportation and demanding disclosure of the fate of the deportees, and demanding an end to practices that violate international obligations undertaken by the Egyptian government.
RPE also received confirmed information about the completion of the issuance of travel documents for twenty-one asylum-seekers among the detainees, and the platform examined the documents and other papers that prove the validity of the information. The twenty-one detainees face the imminent threat of deportation in the coming days, according to what the authorities of the detention centre have declared to the detainees and what the embassy has informed the detainees’ families, without specifying the day of deportation so far.
The Egyptian authorities are still detaining three Eritrean asylum seekers at Al-Qusayr Police Station in Red Sea Governorate, including a child, and the detention authorities have also stated that travel documents are being extracted for them in preparation for their deportation.
This comes with the continued arbitrary detention of Eritrean asylum seekers in Qanater al-Khairiya prison for more than seven years without legal basis, with the issuance of travel documents for them in preparation for their deportation.
The detainees did not receive any legal support from UNHCR Egypt, and their families did not receive any response to the complaints submitted by them, and they were not provided with any kind of support.
This escalation, in violation of international obligations, entails violations, including arbitrary detention in inhumane conditions, ill-treatment and assaults, and forcible deportation by the Egyptian government towards Eritrean asylum-seekers coming to Egypt irregularly since the second half of 2019, after hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers gathered in front of the UNHCR headquarters in the 6th of October city, calling for more protection and assistance and an increase in the number of resettlement cases.
This was met by the security services at the time by attacking the demonstrators and dispersing the demonstration by force, causing injuries and suffocation in addition to the arrest of dozens who were released after that by security services, and five of them remained in prison facing accusations of gathering, incitement, and blocking the road. They were brought before the Public Prosecution and were subsequently released with a financial guarantee after three months.
The Egyptian authorities practices at the borders in dealing with asylum-seekers and forcibly deporting them to a country where it is feared for their lives are clear violations of the Egyptian Constitution, which stipulates the right to asylum in Article 91 of rights, freedoms and public duties, and the Egyptian law that abolishes the criminal responsibility of the smuggled immigrant and prevents punishment in Law 82 of 2016 on combating illegal immigration and human trafficking, It is also a flagrant violation of Egypt’s international obligations towards refugees and asylum seekers, which were contained in the 1951 Convention on the Rights of Refugees, to which Egypt acceded in 1981.
RPE condemns the Egyptian authorities’ arbitrary detention and systematic forcible deportation of Eritrean asylum seekers. Choosing between accepting deportation or prolonged detention without legal justification and then forcible deportation is a violation of all treaties and covenants that Egypt has signed and ratified and against the Egyptian constitution and laws.
We call on the Egyptian authorities to immediately release detained asylum seekers and guarantee their physical safety, and enable them to seek asylum procedures, and we warn against carrying out any further forced deportation such as the two deportations that took place last October and November.
We urge the UNHCR in Egypt to move towards changing policies that violate the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and work to enable detained asylum-seekers to register and request asylum, provide the necessary humanitarian assistance to them and their families, and intervene the urgent need to provide the necessary relief to the currently detained asylum seekers, especially children, and to ensure their physical and psychological safety for all.
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