Staying and Delivering for Refugees Amid COVID-19 Crisis
COVID-19 continued to significantly impact the overall operational and protection environment, affecting the economy, and leaving many Persons of Concern (PoCs) without a livelihood, more dependent on assistance, and exposed to evictions and increased protection risks. However, UNHCR strived to find alternative ways to continue to deliver protection support and assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers. The majority of activities that had been adapted in 2020 to comply with precautionary and safety measures remained in place in the first part of 2021; and thereafter, UNHCR gradually resumed its regular activities, while strengthening and adapting outreach activities and communication with refugees and asylum-seekers through various channels to ensure adequate communication and two-way feedback.
Registration, Refugee Status Determination & Resettlement
International protection for asylum-seekers and refugees begins with admission to safety, registration, documentation, and refugee status determination to facilitate their access to protection and basic rights. In Egypt, the registration process and determining refugee status have been delegated by the Government of Egypt to UNHCR based on the memorandum of understanding signed in 1954.
UNHCR remodeled its interview rooms and waiting areas to comply with required COVID-19 safety precautions and has since significantly increased the number of people provided with registration services. UNHCR Egypt has advocated for tolerance by national authorities with regards to asylum-seekers and refugees with expired UNHCR cards or residencies, and those who do not yet have UNHCR documentation.
In 2021, UNHCR and its partners served a substantive number of refugees and asylum-seekers on a daily basis, averaging to more than 5,500 individuals per day.
151,078 received new & continuous registration services
11 mobile registration missions to Damietta & Matrouh
7,564 RSD interviews conducted
6,908 RSD decisions finalized
3,089 persons departed to 10 countries
The protection of refugees is the mandate of UNHCR and its ultimate goal. It includes the prohibition of being returned to the dangers from which refugees have fled; access to fair and efficient asylum procedures; and measures affirming their basic human rights to live in dignity and safety while helping them to find a longer-term solution.
UNHCR adjusted the provision of its services to the COVID-19 situation, ensuring that the key strategic priorities remained on course. Registration, RSD and resettlement processes have been adjusted and priority has been given to respond and prevent risks related to gender-based violence (GBV), child protection and detention. Support to the most vulnerable groups was prioritized, while continuing engagement with the national institutions in enhancing their involvement in refugee protection and strengthening the protection advocacy for access to fair asylum procedures and against arbitrary detention and refoulement.
In addition, to support efforts towards the development of Egypt’s first law governing asylum, UNHCR has provided technical assistance to the Government of Egypt to familiarize key engaged stakeholders with international refugee law standards and good practice examples, thus supporting the drafting process.
2,373 assisted with GBV response services & 3,769 women, men, girls and boys attended different GBV awareness raising activities
1,796 unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) provided with case management services & 1,845 best interests assessments were conducted for unaccompanied and separated children and for children at risk
1,769 received counseling, legal assistance & support with child birth registration and 943 were released from detention following UNHCR’s intervention
55,722 benefited from protection counselling
289,899 calls responded to by UNHCR Egypt infoline
Find out more!
If you are interested to know more about UNHCR Egypt’s services, you can visit our Help website. You can also subscribe to our monthly newsletter to learn more about our activities and receive our latest news and reports.
Community-based Protection and Communication with Communities
UNHCR adopts a community-based protection (CBP) approach to working with all the people it serves and strives to strengthen the accountability to the affected population framework, based on consultation, participation and two-way feedback. CBP implies that communities engage meaningfully and substantially in all aspects of programmes that affect them, strengthening the community’s leading role as a driving force for change.
Support to people with specific needs
3,444 persons with specific needs were supported by community-based protection
Engagement with community leaders
41 meetings were organized, attended by 130 community leaders
Youth and Sports
160 youth participated in the Sports for Protection programme led by 8 youth initiatives
Live Q&A sessions on Facebook
16 live Q&A sessions organized to respond to refugee questions
Support to community groups
192 coaching sessions provided to 35 community groups
Computer learning centers
412 refugee and Egyptian learners benefitted from 4 computer learning centres
378,511 times the Help website was accessed in 2021 by 199,341 unique users
Social media for refugees
2,440,421 reached on two UNHCR-run Facebook pages
UNHCR helps refugees and asylum-seekers to support themselves and their families by offering them training and assisting them in finding opportunities for their skills and goods. Work in this area is guided by several core principles, mainly protection, diversity, equity, access and sustainability. We also work to promote economic inclusion of those forced to flee their homes by facilitating their access to the labour market and enhancing their working conditions.
448 refugees started/enlarged their businesses with UNHCR support
Skill enhancement and wage employment
5,101 received training sessions, guidance on labour market opportunities, job placement services
UNHCR uses cash to protect and assist people in all phases of displacement. Cash-based interventions (CBI) can be used in a variety of settings, provided there is a stable market and a safe way to provide cash or vouchers. The flexibility that CBI offer makes them a more dignified form of assistance, giving refugees the ability to immediately prioritize and choose the items they need.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the majority of refugees and asylum-seekers in Egypt were already highly vulnerable, with seven out of 10 refugees unable to meet their basic needs and often forced to adopt negative coping mechanisms such as incurring debt or reducing expenditure on food and other essential items to survive. UNHCR expanded its cash programme to support as many vulnerable households as its funding allowed.
Multi-purpose cash assistance
45,418 supported with multipurpose cash assistance
COVID-19 cash programme
25,410 supported with cash under the COVID-19 response
98,003 supported with winter assistance
Cash for protection
4,210 GBV survivors persons supported with cash assistance
3,698 UASC received cash assistance in 2021 to mitigate protection risks & meet basic needs
2,399 persons with disability supported with cash assistance
Education is a vital protection aspect for refugee children and their communities. Instrumental to fostering social cohesion, education strengthens community resilience and empowers refugees by giving them the knowledge and skills to lead productive, fulfilling and independent lives. Education also provides for the ‘human capital’ needed for the future reconstruction and economic development of countries of origin or settlement.
While COVID-19 greatly impacted school attendance, enrolment rates continued to be high reaching approximately 90%. This is due to the wider access to public education granted to some refugee nationalities and the provision of UNHCR education grants and higher education scholarships.
In addition, UNHCR advocated successfully with the Ministry of Education to allow refugee children to enroll in schools without valid documents or valid residency permit for the second academic year in a row.
48,759 school students received education grants
528 refugee youth supported to continue their higher education
Children with specific needs
498 differently-abled children enrolled in schools
Unaccompanied and separated children
1,684 UASC enrolled in schools
Ensuring access to health care is a key component of UNHCR’s protection activities and programming. We promote an integration model, enabling refugees and asylum-seekers to access national health care. With the support of our implementing partners, health care services have been provided to refugees and asylum-seekers.
Furthermore, in response to COVID-19, health awareness sessions and home visits continued to be replaced by phone calls and information provided through mobile messaging applications. The messages focused on COVID-19 preventive measures, addressing misinformation, and informing refugees and asylum-seekers about essential services available in public health facilities. Vulnerable families and families reporting suspected cases of COVID-19 were provided with hygiene kits to maintain preventive measures. In addition, to support medical staff fighting COVID19, UNHCR donated medical supplies to Egypt’s Ministry of Health and Population.
persons with non-communicable diseases treated
pairs of medical gloves donated to health facilities
received primary health assistance
respirators and surgical masks donated to health facilities
live-saving emergencies attended to
medical gowns donated to medical practitioners
medical referrals for secondary and tertiary healthcare
laptops donated to MOHP to support digitization efforts
I started saving from my income to buy various types of sewing machines. I also offered my Egyptian friends internship opportunities to learn how to use sewing machines and new sewing techniques, so that they could also find a source of income. I was always welcomed and supported by Egyptians, which encouraged me to train and hire Egyptians in my shop.
As a human being, being displaced is the worst ever experience, one which separates a person from his loved ones. In Cairo, the situation was different and difficult. I was responsible for myself, and I had to find ways to build my future. I took an oath not only to study but to succeed, because this could have been another refugee’s chance and I did not want my colleagues to think that I wasted it.