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Egypt: UNHCR welcomes decision to release Sudanese women and children

Briefing notes

Egypt: UNHCR welcomes decision to release Sudanese women and children

20 January 2006

We welcome the decision of Egyptian authorities to release all the Sudanese women and children who were still being held in detention since police broke up a demonstration on 30 December. The remaining 194 Sudanese women and children were freed yesterday and the day before. They were among 2,000 Sudanese who for three months had held a sit-in close to UNHCR's office in Cairo.

In addition, 87 Sudanese men, most of them from the troubled Darfur region, were also freed. UNHCR had requested their release because it does not support the return of anyone to the war-torn region of Sudan.

Following the 29-30 December clash, in which 27 people are reported to have died, most of the demonstrators initially detained were released within a few days of the incident. But more than 600 were still being held on 5 January, when UNHCR was given access to the Sudanese in three Cairo prisons to assess their legal status and their need for international protection.

The agency consequently recommended the release of all detainees - especially the two-thirds who are registered with UNHCR or are women and children or who have fled Sudan's strife-torn Darfur region.

We will now continue to assess the status of the 183 Sudanese men remaining in detention through a proper in-depth legal assessment to ensure whether these people are of concern to UNHCR. The government has given UNHCR until the 26th of January to continue its legal assessments and UNHCR is hopeful that no deportations will take place for this group.

In the meantime, UNHCR Cairo resumed registration of asylum seekers and the renewal of ID cards, which had been seriously hampered by the sit-in. It will take some time to clear the backlog.

The agency has also provided assistance to hundreds of Sudanese who had participated in the three-month Cairo demonstration but who had earlier been released from detention after being identified by UNHCR.