UNHCR welcomes access to asylum seekers in detention centres in Egypt
UNHCR welcomes the decision of the Egyptian authorities for UNHCR to have unhindered access to asylum seekers in detention centres in Egypt and to resume refugee status determination interviews. UNHCR staff arrived in Aswan on Sunday night to prepare for UNHCR teams to carry out interviews and individual assessment of the need for international protection of persons in detention seeking asylum, in particular of Eritrean nationals. On Monday, the team visited two locations in Aswan in Shalal and Nasr ElNouba areas where they met some of the asylum seekers. The team reported they saw close to 180 asylum seekers including a group of 40 Ethiopians.
A similar preparatory team will proceed to Hurghada today to prepare the ground for the deployment of our teams. We also plan to send UNHCR teams to other locations in Egypt where reportedly asylum seekers are in detention. In the coming days we will be discussing and reviewing the operational details with our governmental counterparts and proceed with the determination of the status of the concerned group.
On Sunday, the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs sent a letter to High Commissioner António Guterres reaffirming Egypt's commitment to uphold its obligations in accordance with international instruments relating to the protection of refugees and to grant UNHCR in Cairo access to Eritrean citizens who have entered Egypt illegally with a view to determining their status.
Egypt has seen a surge of Eritreans entering the country illegally in recent months by land from Sudan or directly from Eritrea via the Red Sea. The Egyptian authorities on 27 February 2008 had suspended access of UNHCR protection staff to asylum seekers in detention. Since then, UNHCR has been in continuous contact with relevant authorities through official communications and meetings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, requesting access to asylum seekers in detention to evaluate their need for international protection as well as to identify humanitarian solutions to their plight.