CAIRO: The Cairo Administrative Court has called off orders by the Ministry of Interior to deport two Sudanese refugees from Egypt, lawyer at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) Ahmed Hossam said Monday.
The ruling, which was announced Sunday, put into force for the first time the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, Hossam told Daily News Egypt.
“The lawsuits filed by the ECESR are the first ones where the Convention has been directly applied and followed [by the judiciary],” said Gasser Abdel-Razek, Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance-Egypt country director.
Based on the convention, a refugee — except where compelling reasons of national security otherwise require — has the right to be allowed to submit the reasons against his or her expulsion and to have the case reviewed by, and be represented for the purpose before, the competent authority.
“The Egyptian constitutional article number 151 states that international treaties ratified by Egypt have force of law and in all cases supersede domestic law,” Hossam noted.
In April 2010 the center filed two lawsuits on behalf of the wives of the two Sudanese men calling for suspending the Ministry of Interior’s decision to deport the two men to Sudan. The first hearing was held in June.
Ishac Fadl Ahmed and Mohamed Adam Abdullah had arrived in Egypt in 2005 to escape the civil war in Darfur. Both men were registered at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Egypt.
In August 2009, they were arbitrarily arrested by the Egyptian authorities. They remained in custody at Qanater Prison without being interrogated or charged with any crime. The interior ministry later ordered their deportation.
“The government lawyers claimed that the two men attempted to flee to Israel through the border with Egypt. However, we refuted this allegation [simply] because Ahmed and Abdullah were arrested in Cairo not on the border,” Hossam explained.
Refugees in Egypt remain vulnerable to deportation despite the fact that they hold documentation from the UNHCR, according to rights groups.
“This reflects a state of deterioration in [the government’s way of dealing with] refugees in the country,” Abel-Razek argued.
“Deporting a refugee means [s/he] will be subject to persecution in [his or her] homeland,” Abdel-Razek added.
According to Human Rights Watch, in December 2008 and January 2009, Egypt forcibly returned more than 45 Eritrean asylum seekers to Eritrea, where they face detention and the risk of torture, without first assessing their protection needs and providing them with the opportunity to make asylum claims.
Under refugee law, the UN Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Egypt may not return anyone to a country where he or she faces the risk of torture, ill-treatment or persecution, an act known as "refoulement."
In December 2005, about 27 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers, including children, were killed and others injured as police force stormed a protest camp in Cairo.
About 2,500 Sudanese had been occupying a park in Moustafa Mahmoud square in the neiborhood of Mohandessin for about three months to protest their treatment by UNHCR.
According to the World Refugee Survey of 2009 released by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrates, Egypt hosted some 122,400 refugees and asylum seekers, including some 70,000 Palestinians, over 23,000 Sudanese, and nearly 20,000 Iraqis. Some 42,500 of these, more than half of them Sudanese, are registered with the UNHCR office.
Since 2006, over 13,000 African immigrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea, have entered Israel through Egypt, according to the survey.
However, Abdel-Razek argues that “the actual number of refugees in Egypt surpasses any official statistics.”