Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Badr Abdelatty said in a statement that a total of 171 “Syrian and Palestinian immigrants” have been granted three-month residency permits out of a total of 206.
“The immigrants had illegally entered Egyptian territorial waters under the pretense of being tourists, with the intention of passing through Egypt and illegally immigrating to other countries,” the spokesman said.
Abdelatty insisted that the Syrians fleeing the conflict and seeking residence in Egypt are “brothers and sisters” and are welcome in Egypt.
The statement reiterated by the foreign ministry is similar to that made by Ministry of Interior spokesman Hany Abdel Latif, who insists that refugees have not been detained by Egyptian authorities but have been “residents” in police stations since they do not have accommodations in the country.
Refugees from Syria who have been detained in Egyptian police stations were released on Monday and include 100 who are of Palestinian decent, the Palestinian Embassy in Cairo said. They were released and granted temporary residence; however, Nader El-Attar, from Refugees’ Solidarity Movement, points out that the residency permits issued do not allow the released refugees to work in Egypt.
The refugees were held in police stations in Alexandria, Port Said and Beheira.
Of the 171 who were granted residencies, 72 were held in Alexandria, 25 in Port Said and 74 in Beheira.
The foreign ministry said authorities are currently processing the cases of the 36, “with a favourable view to granting them [residency] permits”. It added that it has granted residency permits to “all women, children, the elderly, and those with medical conditions” and that none of the 206 had requested permanent residencies in Egypt.
Their release comes one day after a government decision on Sunday.
The foreign ministry estimates that the number of Syrian refugees in Egypt who have emigrated since the start of Syrian conflict is 320,000. The UNHCR, however, estimates the number of refugees from Syria at approximately 129,000.
While the majority of refugees who came to Egypt from Syria are Syrians, some 6,000 are Palestinian-Syrians.