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UNHCR interviews 179 Eritrean asylum seekers detained in Egypt

UNHCR interviews 179 Eritrean asylum seekers detained in Egypt

UNHCR staff conduct interviews in southern Egypt with 179 detained Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum seekers to determine if they qualify for refugee status.
2 July 2008
Young Eritrean refugees in Sudan. Many Eritreans arriving in Egypt come via Sudan.

CAIRO, Egypt, July 2 (UNHCR) - Staff from the UN refugee agency have completed interviewing 179 detained Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum seekers in the southern Egypt town of Aswan to assess their claims for refugee status.

The interviews were conducted in the Shalal detention centre after authorization from the Egyptian government. Radhouane Nouicer, director of UNHCR's Middle East and North Africa bureau, welcomed the cooperation of the Egyptian authorities in permitting these interviews to take place under good conditions.

Among the group of Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum seekers interviewed by UNHCR were 48 women and 20 children, including two boys suffering from trauma after their mother was killed in a car accident while they were on their way to Egypt.

UNHCR had earlier appealed to the Egyptian government to urgently provide information on the location of Eritreans and other persons of concern to UNHCR. The UN refugee agency gave the names and detention details of some 1,400 Eritreans to the Egyptian authorities. A statement issued on June 19 mistakenly said the government had given the names to UNHCR.

The UN refugee agency continues to seek prompt and unhindered access to all asylum seekers who are believed to be still in detention.

"We urge the Egyptian authorities to continue their generous asylum traditions and to allow access by UNHCR staff to all those reportedly in detention. We are engaged in frank discussions with the authorities and trust that those in need of international protection will continue to enjoy it in Egypt," said Nouicer.

Egypt has seen an increase in the number of Eritreans entering the country illegally in recent months from Sudan or across the Red Sea from their homeland. UNHCR has been in continuous contact and discussions with the relevant Egyptian authorities about access to Eritrean asylum seekers in detention.

Last month, UNHCR said it was concerned by "credible reports" of forcible returns of Eritrean asylum seekers from Egypt despite appeals to halt any return of asylum seekers until UNHCR had had access to detention centres to determine their claims for international protection.