The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) condemned on Sunday Egypt’s security apparatuses’ “targeting and mistreatment of Syrian citizens”, the latest incident being the arrest of Syrian photojournalist Mohamed Hayyan.
Hayyan was arrested while covering a protest outside the headquarters of the Ministry of Interior on Thursday. Hany Abdel Latif, the ministry’s spokesman, said at the time of his arrest, Hayyan had drifted from the scene of the protest.
In a statement released on Sunday, ANHRI stated that Hayyan remains in detention despite the public prosecution’s decision to release him. According to the statement, the prosecution ordered Hayyan’s release on Thursday night; he was then held at the Abdeen police station.
Hayyan was accused of taking photos of the protest without a licence and illegally staying in Egypt, stated ANHRI. Ashraf Al-Anani, from the Ministry of Interior’s media office, said Hayyan was arrested without a passport and without a permit from State Information Service (SIS) to practice journalism. Al-Anani added that any foreign photojournalist working in Egypt should get authorisation from the SIS.
Al-Anani also said Hayyan had no visa and no documents proving he worked for a media organisation. He was therefore arrested and referred to prosecution for investigation.
ANHRI stated that Hayyan was done with the procedures of renewing his visa and was expected to receive the visa on the same day of his arrest. The organisation said the Ministry of Interior had not tried to confirm this fact and referred him to the prosecution instead.
Al-Anani said it is up to the prosecution to confirm Hayyan’s claims and decide accordingly on releasing him or extending his detention.
The public prosecution’s spokesman Ahmed Al-Rakeeb was unavailable for comment.
ANHRI claimed Hayyan was ill-treated while in the customs authority, saying the customs authority insisted on referring him back to detention despite confirming the validity of his papers. It added that Hayyan remains in detention pending referral to the Homeland Security Authority (formerly known as State Security).
“Egyptian security apparatuses insist on [imposing] restrictions on Syrians despite the Egyptian authorities’ decision to provide Syrians with free visas,” ANHRI’s statement read. It added that the state needs to work on preventing its security apparatuses from targeting Syrians. It called on the authorities to issue clear instructions to security apparatuses to change their “policy of oppressing Syrians in Egypt” and punish those who impose arbitrary measures upon them.
Domestic and international human rights organisations have repeatedly accused Egypt of mistreating Syrian refugees. On 17 October, Amnesty International accused Egypt of unlawfully detaining and deporting Syrian refugees, most of them arrested after failing to flee the country in boats headed for Europe.
Badr Abdelatty, Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman, denied any mistreatment of Syrian refugees shortly after Amnesty’s report was released. He said that Syrian refugees in Egypt are treated “in a dignified way … and receive the same treatment as Egyptians in regards to health care and education.”
Egypt hosts 126,000 Syrian refugees, UNHCR figures indicate, but government estimates in June showed the number to be around 250,000 to 300,000. The overall number of Syrian refugees has surpassed the 2 million mark.