The Cairo Criminal Court has sentenced 13 Syrians in absentia to five years’ high security prison for illegal assembly on Tuesday.
The charges against them include illegal assembly, disturbing public order, and compromising security during a protest in against Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad outside the Syrian Embassy in Cairo, state-run Al-Ahram reported.
In a joint statement, prominent international rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch said on Monday: “Egyptian authorities have violated the rights of refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants from Syria, including both Syrian nationals and Palestinians who were living in Syria.”
Citing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the two right groups said that as of 3 June, Egypt detained “519 additional refugees from Syria and was holding 102 at police stations on the Mediterranean coast.”
Between August and December, some 1,500 refugees from Syria were detained, including 250 children. Most of them were detained after being caught for attempting to illegally migrate off the coast of Egypt to Europe. The joint statement described their detention as arbitrary and said “authorities coerced over 1,200 to leave Egypt, some to go to Syria under threat of indefinite detention.”
The content of a scathing Human Rights Watch report detailing the detention of the 1,500 refugees was described by the Egyptian Foreign Ministry as “wholly inaccurate.” The ministry also denied a state policy of coerced departures of refugees. Eventually, Egyptian authorities released the remaining refugees in December.
In May, Syrian authorities arrested 35 Syrians, as part of a group of 87 individuals who were caught while attempting illegal emigration. In April, 20 people, including 18 Syrians were caught in similar circumstances.
Since July, Egypt has implemented a stricter interpretation of laws that regulate the entry of Syrians. “Since then, airport officials have denied entry to at least 476 Syrians and returned them to Syria,” the joint statement said.
The rights groups’ statements on refugees were part of a wider criticism to the human rights situation in the country. They called on President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi to address ongoing human rights abuses in Egypt.