Rights groups urge Egypt to end 'serious abuses' of Sudanese refugees

Rights groups urge Egypt to end 'serious abuses' of Sudanese refugees
Since the war first broke out in April 2023, thousands of Sudanese crossed the border into Egypt to seek refuge.
3 min read
Egypt - Cairo
28 March, 2024
Thousands of Sudanese citizens have crossed into Egypt through the border with Sudan after the civil war erupted in April last year. [Getty]

Several human rights organisations have jointly called on the Egyptian authorities to end "serious abuses" against Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers who have fled an ongoing civil war at home.

A total of 27 local, regional, and international groups asserted in a joint statement on Wednesday that "Sudanese asylum seekers have been detained in inhuman conditions, stood unfair trials and forcibly returned to Sudan in violation of Egypt's international obligations, well-established human rights principles and agreements, and Egypt's constitution."

Such conditions have been exacerbated after a decree was passed by Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly in August last year that stipulated that foreigners unlawfully living in the country could apply for residency and be given a three-month grace period to legitimise their status.

The National Security Sector's approval is required first for the status of refugees to be legalised. After, a foreigner must have an Egyptian sponsor and pay a fee worth US$1,000 for residency or its equivalent in the local currency.

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The statement said that arrests and deportation campaigns began in late August 2023 and are ongoing nationwide in the capital, Cairo, as well as Giza, Aswan, the Red Sea, Marsa Matrouh, Alexandria provinces and along the country's southern border.

"While detained, they are denied access to their families, advocates, and [the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] UNHCR. Detainees live in inhumane conditions in detention centres, denied visits and access to health care. Authorities have prevented UNHCR from registering detainees' names," the groups said.

"In some cases, the authorities even deported Sudanese who are registered with UNHCR in Egypt and those with valid residency…who are waiting to register," the statement added.

Detainees may be released from detention only after the approval of the competent administrative body, such as the Passport and Immigration Sector and the National Security Sector at the Ministry of Interior.

"On the Egyptian-Sudanese border, Egypt's restrictions on Sudanese migration have resulted in an irregular migration movement. This comes with high risks that include exploitation, suspicions of trafficking, and fraud. Thus, instead of protecting asylum seekers, Egypt has adopted a punishment policy," the rights groups said.

"In locations at or near the border, Egypt's Border Guard Forces, affiliated with the Egyptian army, detain Sudanese migrants, including women and children, in camps that are not registered in Egypt as legal detention centres. In these camps, detainees are not allowed to communicate with the outside world and are denied access to UNHCR services and legal counsel," according to the rights groups.

Already home to about four million Sudanese citizens as per official accounts, Egypt has long been a favoured destination for refugees fleeing wars and economic hardships, either as a refuge or a transit country en route to Europe.

Before the war broke out, well-off Sudanese families commonly visited Egypt for healthcare services at private hospitals or sent their children to study at Egyptian universities.

Since the war first broke out in Sudan in April last year between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF), thousands of Sudanese people have crossed the border into Egypt to seek refuge.

Even though Cairo has not directly involved itself in the fighting, the Egyptian regime is known for having strong ties to the Sudanese army.