Some improvements for Syrian refugees in Egypt: UNHCR Egypt

Joel Gulhane
5 Min Read
Egyptians still seek having big homes full of many kids. (AFP Photo)
UNHCR Regional Representative in Egypt has noted some improvements in attitude towards Syrian refugees although economic problems still make life tough (AFP Photo)
UNHCR Regional Representative in Egypt has noted some improvements in attitude towards Syrian refugees although economic problems still make life tough
(AFP Photo)

Assistant Foreign Minister for Refugees and Migration Tariq Maati hosted an international delegation tasked with inspecting the status of Syrian refugees in Egypt on Tuesday.

The delegation, made up of representatives from nations willing to resettle Syrian refugees, concluded its visit on Wednesday, according to a foreign ministry statement. Nations represented in the delegation included Canada, the United States, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Following the meeting, Maati said that Egypt is prepared to cooperate further with the international community “to ensure the best ways to help our brothers Syrians live in dignity and alleviate their suffering”.

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Regional Director Mohamed Dayri, also attended the meeting on Tuesday.

“The international delegation expressed satisfaction with the level of cooperation between Egypt and UNHCR to provide the necessary assistance to Syrian refugees,” said the foreign ministry.

Egypt is host to 137,063 Syrian refugees, who have fled the bloody conflict in their homeland that has raged on for over three years.

Speaking to Daily News Egypt, Dayri said that currently, one of the biggest challenges for Syrian refugees in Egypt is the economy. He said they have found it “increasingly [sic] difficult to survive in Egypt within the current economic conditions”.

The Egyptian economy has been facing recurring problems since the January 2011 uprising. Since then, Egypt has witnessed a rise in prices for basic commodities, food and fuel. The energy crisis has seen an increase in power outages, which is set to get worse over the summer.

UNHCR’s funding requirements for Syrian refugees in Egypt is $168,824,040; however, as of 14 April, only 9% of this figure had been achieved. At a meeting earlier this week in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Egypt’s Foreign Minister for African Affairs Hamdi Loza joined foreign ministers from Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres in calling for the international community to uphold their financial commitments to help ease the burden on countries in the region hosting Syrian refugees.

In July 2013, following the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, Egypt placed visa requirements for Syrians entering the country, which Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said in August 2013 was “because of the security concerns here [Egypt]. This is not a political decision against Syria or other countries and these measures will be temporary”.

There have also been incidents of arrests in the past, with many being a result of irregularities with the refugees’ visas.

Dayri said that visa requirement “has led to limited access to Egyptian territory for Syrians, and separation of family members, including between close relatives.” He also noted: “There has been a marked decrease in arrests and detention for a lack of visa and related residency issues.”

“Authorities have also been promptly releasing Syrians arrested for attempting irregular departure from the country,” said Dayri. “Authorities have continued to request some Syrians in detention to leave the country, although less frequently than last year.”

Syrians had also been accused of involving themselves in Egyptian politics by taking part in demonstrations. Some refugees blamed the Egyptian media for stoking xenophobic sentiment against them. The foreign ministry warned Syrians and Palestinians not to involve themselves in Egyptians politics.

Dayri stated: “By the end of 2013 the negative media campaign had subsided, and although perceptions among Egyptians are not as positive nor are they as sympathetic as they had been before July 2013, there have been improvements in relations between the refugee and host communities.” He attributed to this to “initiatives addressing the interests of both communities”.

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Joel Gulhane is a journalist with an interest in Egyptian and regional politics. Follow him on Twitter @jgulhane
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