The Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) filed on Thursday a lawsuit at the Administrative Court regarding the deportation of over 500 Syrian refugees.
The lawsuit, filed against interim President Adly Mansour, interim Minister of Interior Mohamed Ibrahim and interim Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Fahmy, called for revoking the deportation decision, issued by Homeland Security.
The Syrian refugees are currently detained pending their deportation; they are accused of attempted illegal immigration, which is a criminal offence according to Egyptian laws. Despite the prosecution’s decision to release the refugees, Homeland Security ordered resuming their detention until they are deported back to Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, or Malaysia, according to a joint statement released by 12 civil society organisations on 21 August. Signatories to the statement included ECESR, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), and the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE).
ECESR called for the swift release of the refugees. It stated that a large number of them are minors, adding that the authorities have no right to detain them without any legal reason or to deport them back to the areas of conflict they originally fled.
The signatories of August’s joint statement said that the detained refugees include 34 children. They added that some children, alongside other adults also detained, were infected with skin diseases as a result of the lack of toiletries and humane toilets. The organisations condemned the “inhumane detention” the refugees were facing.
In a statement released on Tuesday, The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) stated that 512 Syrian refugees are detained in Alexandria; 107 refugees in Karmouz police station, 265 refugees in Montazah police station and 140 refugees in Abu Keer police station.
ECESR claimed the refugees were tricked by a conman who convinced them he could secure their travel by sea to Italy in exchange for EGP 4000 per person.
FIDH reported that detained refugees in Egypt are usually released by the Public Prosecution pending Homeland Security’s decision. Homeland security would issue a deportation order to those without refugee status or a valid residency permit. ECESR claimed that most of the detained refugees hold valid residency permits.
Both ECESR and FIDH decried “unjustified” hostility towards Syrian refugees in Egypt and stated that the refugees’ detention and attempted deportation violates international law. Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives all the “right to leave any country”. The 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees prohibits all state parties to “expel or return” any refugee to any territories “where his life or freedom would be threatened”. Egypt signed and ratified both texts.
“FIDH calls upon the Egyptian authorities to uphold their international legal obligations and immediately put an end to deportations to Syria,” the international organisation’s statement read. “Furthermore, in case of the arrest and detention of any Syrian refugee, the Egyptian authorities should immediately inform the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).”
UNHCR has announced that the number of Syrian refugees has now surpassed 2 million, with Egypt currently hosting 111,101 ‘Persons of Concern’, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimates the number to be 250,000-300,000.
FIDH cited UNHCR figures putting the number of Syrian refugees who fled to Italy this year at 4,600, most of them arriving from Egypt.
On 17 September, over a hundred Syrian and Palestinian refugees attempting to flee Alexandria to Italy in a boat were shot at by the Egyptian Coast Guard, leaving two Palestinians dead, reported state-run Al-Ahram.
FIDH urged the Egyptian authorities to “conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the use of lethal force against refugees attempting to leave Egypt by boat”.