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UNHCR staff and Egyptian authorities meet following assessment deadline expiry

Briefing notes

UNHCR staff and Egyptian authorities meet following assessment deadline expiry

17 January 2006

Senior UNHCR staff from Cairo and Geneva met with Egyptian authorities yesterday (Monday) following the expiry of the deadline for UNHCR to assess the status of 462 Sudanese in three Cairo detention centres. They have been detained since last month's tragic confrontation in a Cairo square.

UNHCR briefed the authorities on progress made over the past week in assessing these individuals, and emphasized that we would need additional time for a proper, in-depth legal analysis of the status of remaining Sudanese in prison. UNHCR teams worked day and night over the past week, but given the number of Sudanese in detention our teams were able to conduct interviews averaging only 30-40 minutes. This is not enough to do a thorough status-determination. UNHCR asked that no one be deported at this point in time, citing humanitarian grounds, and we requested that the authorities allow our staff to continue the interviews and the legal assessment of all the cases. UNHCR again underscored the immediate need to release all women and children from prison, as well as all Sudanese from Darfur.

We understand that Egyptian authorities continue to investigate the December incident and we support the need for that. In this context, UNHCR also reiterated its support to due process under Egyptian law for these Sudanese, and we will continue to provide legal aid to any persons who might be charged.

UNHCR obtained adequate assurances that those in need of international protection will not be deported. We have also received positive indications that additional time will be given to the office to finalise the legal process and assess all the cases properly. We will continue our work over the coming weeks in the prison and with our legal team. We are also continuing our tracing efforts: last Thursday, a 7- year-old girl who had been alone in prison was released and reunited with her mother, after we had traced her. We hope to be able to reunite more families, with the cooperation of the Egyptian authorities.

In the meantime, UNHCR's office in Cairo has resumed the registration and renewal of ID cards of Sudanese and other refugees who could not be helped during the three-month sit-in demonstration in the square near our office.