16 May 2014

A new report by Refugees International (RI) illustrates the increasing difficulties faced by Syrians living in Egypt due to the lack of funding to address the needs of refugees, and changes in policies and public perceptions following the establishment of a military-backed government in July 2013.

Refugees told RI that Syrians were being stigmatised in Egyptian media, Syrian children were being attacked on the way to school, and that there was a growing feeling of vulnerability due to reports of arrests, detentions and deportations of Syrians.

In addition, the authorities are obstructing the work of organisations seeking to provide assistance for Syrians by not approving the registration of international NGOs intending to set up programmes for Syrian refugees in Egypt, shutting down a large number of new Egyptian charities that had developed in response to the needs of Syrians, and are not allowing some licensed agencies to expand the focus of their work to address the needs of Syrian refugees.

According to RI, in view of the situation, many Syrian refugees consider that they will not be able to have a dignified future in Egypt, and as they feel that it will not be possible to return to Syria for many years, decide to embark on unsafe boats to Europe.

RI also spoke to Syrian refugees who have relatives in Europe and other regions but are prevented from joining them because of visa restrictions. RI urges developed countries with Syrian populations to facilitate family reunification in order to show solidarity with the refugees and relieve some of the pressure on Egypt and other countries hosting refugees in the region.

Since July 2013, Syrians are required to have visas and a security clearance before entering the country, which according to RI has virtually stopped the arrivals of Syrians to Egypt. RI urges Egypt to lift the restrictions that are preventing Syrians from entering Egypt, in line with the obligations of the 1951 Refugee Convention to which Egypt is a signatory.

Around 135,000 Syrians have registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Egypt. Estimates by UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations suggest that the Syrian refugee population in the country could be twice that number.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 16 May 2014.
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