CAIRO: A one year-old child has died in an Egyptian prison after being denied medical treatment, an Egyptian refugee rights group said this week.
The Egyptian Foundation for Refugee Rights (EFRR) says in its statement that the child, Galila, died in El-Qanater prison in Qaliubiya on Sept. 27, 2009 after suffering “days of diarrhea and vomiting.
EFRR allege that Galila died as a direct result of being denied medical treatment by the prison authorities. EFRR lawyer Mohamed Bayoumy told Daily News Egypt that Galila’s mother repeatedly requested medical attention for her daughter.
Bayoumy says that Galila and her mother were arrested on Egypt’s border with Sudan six months ago. According to Bayoumy, Galila’s mother fled Ethiopia for security reasons.
The pair had been imprisoned since their arrest.
“This arrest occurred despite Egypt’s obligations under Article 31(1) of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees not to punish refugees for illegally entering the country, EFRR’s statement reads.
“In violation of Egypt’s obligations [Galila] was detained with her mother. Ironically, as refugees, they were detained in conditions even more severe than those they fled in Ethiopia, the statement continues.
Galila’s mother “remains detained and distraught in El-Qanater prison, according to EFRR. Both EFRR and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) had been denied access to the pair throughout their detention, despite the fact that a resettlement request to Australia (where Galila’s mother has relatives) had been pending for some time.
Daily News Egypt unsuccessfully attempted to contact Youssef El-Sharqawy, responsible for refugee affairs at the Foreign Ministry.
Mike Kagan, a senior fellow in human rights law at the American University in Cairo, told Daily News Egypt that the detention of minors seeking asylum in Egypt is “extremely common.
“Detention of asylum seekers should be limited and their detention subject to judicial review. It is extremely difficult to imagine how being in prison could be in the interests of a one-year-old child. Where it is found that an asylum-seeker accompanied by children does have to be detained there are alternatives, such as group homes, Kagan explained.
“A government which wishes to be known as humanitarian would never do something like this. The detainment of a one-year-old child in a prison should be a major concern.
Kagan added that asylum-seekers are routinely denied access to UNHCR officials, particularly during the last 18 months when the number of Eritrean migrants attempting to cross Egypt’s border into Israel has increased.
Conditions in Egyptian prisons have repeatedly been the subject of criticism by rights groups who allege that prisoners and detainees live in cramped, overcrowded conditions and do not receive appropriate medical care.
Kagan emphasizes that it is “a mistake to view Galila’s case through the prism of refugee law.
“Anyone detained by the Egyptian authorities whether Egyptian or a foreigner is entitled to medical care. The authorities are under an obligation to provide medical treatment.
The Interior Ministry could not be reached for comment.