Remaining Sudanese detainees released in Cairo on Saturday
CAIRO, Feb 13 (UNHCR) - The last group of Sudanese remaining in detention after a protest in a Cairo park was broken up in late December, were released on Saturday by the Egyptian authorities with a promise not to deport them.
After extensive interviews by UNHCR in the detention facilities, the 156 Sudanese just released were determined not to be refugees in need of international protection. However, UNHCR requested that their cases be treated on humanitarian grounds and asked that they be released and not deported. UNHCR based its request on the unstable and evolving situation in Sudan, family separation, ongoing displacement and the hardship already suffered by the Sudanese after the tragic events in Cairo in December.
"We are pleased to see the Egyptian authorities have released this final group from detention and have said they won't be deported. We thank them for this humanitarian gesture," said UNHCR's Geneva-based deputy director for the region, Radhouane Nouicer. "It's been a very tough time for these people. They have lost all their possessions, so we are offering one-off financial assistance to help them find accommodation," he added.
Hundreds of Sudanese were initially detained after a three-month sit-in protest over resettlement opportunities by some 2,000 Sudanese in Cairo's Mustapha Mahmoud Square was broken up on 30 December with tragic consequences. Several protesters died and many others, including police, were wounded.
Most of demonstrators were released from detention within a few days. In early January, UNHCR had asked the government for a period of at least one month to do proper legal assessments of all the remaining 627 detainees still being held at that time. Given a shorter time-frame, UNHCR's legal teams worked round the clock to assure proper assessments of all the Sudanese remaining in detention. As a result, more than 440 Sudanese were released between 7-20 January, and more were gradually released after that, ending with Sunday's release of the final group of 156.
During this period, UNHCR Cairo resumed registration of asylum seekers and the renewal of ID cards, which had been seriously hampered by the sit-in. Clearing the backlog is taking time.
The agency has also provided assistance to hundreds of Sudanese who had participated in the Cairo demonstration but who had earlier been released from detention after being identified by UNHCR.
UNHCR Cairo normally provides basic assistance and care to over 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly Sudanese but also Somalis, Eritreans and Ethiopians.