The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied accusations that Egyptian authorities are deporting Palestinian refugees who have fled the bloody conflict in Syria.
On January 18 Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Egyptian authorities not to deport people back to Syria as it would put them at risk of persecution.
Over a week later a ministry official denied these accusations, announcing in a statement that the HRW’s comments are “contrary to what is happening on the ground”. The official said that Syrians and Palestinians are permitted to enter Egypt without prior approval, adding that they would be treated like Egyptian citizens, having access to education and health services.
The official confirmed that the two Palestinian men referred to by HRW had not been deported.
“The denial is unfortunate and is a standard Mubarak-esque response,” said Heba Morayef, the director for HRW in Egypt.
She added that the group stood by its information, and does not rely solely on statements by those affected by the situation, but instead checks its original sources and information thoroughly.
Morayef stressed that HRW was not claiming that this is now official Egyptian policy; however, it is clear that there has been a shift since December, she said, and there have been a number of cases of deportation. These include two Syrian men deported on January 13, a case cited by HRW on January 18.
Egypt is party to a number of international conventions and agreements including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1951 Refugee Convention, the UN Convention Against Torture and the African Refugee Convention. All these agreements forbid signatories from deporting refugees to any country where they would be at risk of persecution.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) reported that over 400,000 of the 525,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria are in need of urgent assistance. It also said that 18,000 have fled Syria to Lebanon since the start of the conflict, and that by January 25, a total of 3,349 Palestinians had crossed into Jordan from Syria. The agency did not provide numbers for Palestinian Refugees who have fled Syria for Egypt.