Egypt allows more time for UNHCR to interview detained Sudanese
CAIRO, Jan. 17 (UNHCR) - UNHCR has received assurances from Egyptian authorities that hundreds of Sudanese still detained following a tragic confrontation in a Cairo park last month will not be deported while the agency continues individual assessments of each of them.
Following a meeting Monday between Egyptian authorities and senior UNHCR officials from Cairo and Geneva, the refugee agency received positive indications that additional time will be given to UNHCR staff to finalise the legal process and assess all of the detained cases properly. Monday was to have been the deadline for completing the process for 462 Sudanese remaining in three detention facilities.
A UNHCR spokeswoman in Cairo, Astrid van Genderen Stort, said the agency's legal team would now continue its work over the coming weeks in the three prisons.
"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," van Genderen Stort said.
"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 each. This is not enough to do a thorough status-determination."
Meanwhile, she said, UNHCR has asked that no one be deported at this point, citing humanitarian grounds. UNHCR again underscored the immediate need to release all women and children from prison, as well as all Sudanese from the conflict-ridden Darfur region of Sudan.
"We understand that Egyptian authorities continue to investigate the December incident in Cairo, and we support the need for that," van Genderen Stort said. "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."
The refugee agency is also continuing its tracing efforts to reunite separated families. Last Thursday, a 7-year-old girl who had been alone in one of the detention facilities was released and reunited with her mother, whom UNHCR had traced.
Meanwhile, UNHCR's office in Cairo has resumed the registration and renewal of identification cards for Sudanese and other refugees who could not be helped during the three-month sit-in demonstration in the square near the UNHCR office.
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 by Egyptian authorities after being identified by UNHCR.