Mohamed Dayri, the Regional Representative of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees, praised to the Egyptian government’s move release Syrian and Palestinian-Syrian refugees last week.
Refugees from Syria, including Palestinians from Syria who have been held in Egyptian police stations, were released on Monday in what Dayri considered “a step in the right direction,” adding that it means that “we should, on our part in the international refugee community, enhance existing cooperation with concerned Egyptian authorities.”
He described it as a “humanitarian gesture” on the part of the Egyptian authorities, adding: “Indeed, the foreign ministry and the interior ministry have made tireless efforts,” with the intention of making this release happen, adding that it is among many other positive decisions.
Foreign ministry figures from last week indicate that the number of refugees who were released and granted residency permits stands at 171 out of 206. The refugees were held in police stations in Alexandria, Port Said and Beheira.
Dayri said the refugees were being released incrementally, starting with women and the elderly, but added that he has received “assurances” that the rest will be released.
Dayri said that for its part, the UNHCR will continue to design projects in refugee areas. He added that the next few weeks will witness the implementation of these projects and was pleased to note that he had received interest and support for the implementation of these projects from Ministers of State for Local Development Adel Labib, Minister of Social Solidarity Ahmed El-Boraie and Minister of Housing and Urban Development Ibrahim Mehleb.
The foreign ministry estimates that the number of Syrian refugees in Egypt who have emigrated since the start of the Syrian conflict stands at 320,000. UNHCR, however, estimates the number of refugees from Syria to be approximately 129,000.
While the majority of refugees who came to Egypt from Syria are Syrians, some 6,000 are Palestinian-Syrians.
Egyptian authorities have been widely criticised for gross mistreatment of Syrian refugees in the country, including mass detentions and deportations. Human Rights Watch, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights and Amnesty International have all released reports highlighting the plight of refugees in Egypt.
The foreign ministry has repeatedly rejected reports of abuse directed against refugees from Syria. The ministry specifically denied any mistreatment of refugees, as detailed in an Amnesty International report and described a similar Human Rights Watch report as “wholly inaccurate”.