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Eritrean refugees in Egypt went to the UNHCR office in Cairo on 21 July to demand better protection from the agency which legally represents all recognised refugees in the country. As the 500 refugees reached the agency office, UNHCR personnel asked them to send two people to deliver their message and explain their grievances. The refugees asked Abdulhadi Mohammed and Denden Ismail to deliver a letter and speak to UNHCR personnel about the security concerns of Eritrean refugees in Egypt.

One of the staff who talked with the two refugees was the chief protection officer (a Kenyan lady whose name will be update later) who asked them if they were the organisers of the march and if they had written the letter which listed the refugee’s grievances. They told her that they were simply a part of the march, and they came in to the office because the refugees were asked by her to send some people to deliver the letter which was written by the Eritrean Refugee Community.

The two refugees told the visibly angry protection officer that the refugees were thankful for all the work that the UNHCR office does, but that they still have serious security concerns which the community had reported to her on multiple occasions in the past. They then asked her to let them meet the head of UNHCR Egypt. The ‘protection officer’ kept insisting that the two were the ‘criminals’ who wrote the letter and that they were the organisers of the march. She then told them Eritrean refugees in Egypt have no problems whatsoever, and that they have no right whatsoever to ask anything from the UNHCR, insulted them and did her best to disempower them. She also blocked their request to be allowed to talk with the head of UNHCR in Egypt.


As soon as the refugees saw that the protection officer was in very combative and violent mode, they thanked her for her cooperation and politely withdrew. The rude and threatful ‘protection’ officer then went ahead and called the police telling them some Eritrean refugees had attacked the UNHCR compound. She then followed the two refugees and promised she would show them who she is, and told them they would be punished severely for daring to hint that she was not doing her job properly by demanding better protection from the UNHCR.

The UNHCR staff were in shock as they saw their chief protection officer attacking the refugees verbally, telling the police the refugees were planning security sabotage, promising to punish them even more and watching with satisfaction as police brutally beat them up.

After receiving a call from the protection officer, the police outside started beating up the refugees who were outside the compound. Other UNHCR staff were helpless witnessing the crazed protection officer’s assault and the police’s misguided actions prove the very point the refugees were trying to make.

Denden and Abdulhadi were rounded up by police at the compound and taken to jail. By the time they were being kidnapped from the UNHCR office, the march had been dispersed very violently by police. Many of the refugees had been severely wounded. All the women were crying and desperately calling for help as the UNHCR delivered the punishment it promised.

The other three detainees; Feday Yemane, Hermon Goitom and Yonatan Biemnet, were rounded up on the streets as they returned home from the march. UNHCR staff suggest police might have recognised them because most of the young men at the march were violently and severely beaten by riot police.

None of the five detainees, all of whom hold UNHCR refugee protection papers, have been allowed to communicate with their families and community. They have not yet found any legal representation.

All of the five refugees are being held at a prison in 6th of October (ستة أكتوبر) City. Sources from the district police say the refugees are being held with more than 40 other detainees in a four square metre cell. Sources who are connected with the district public prosecutor’s office confirm that no legal representation for the refugees has approached the public prosecutor’s office and that the refugees, most of whom do not speak Arabic, will be forced to represent themselves at court.

Egyptian citizens who had been through the Sita Aktober prison say that holding conditions are subhuman in the unventilated, overcrowded and extremely unhygienic cells where prisoners are routinely beaten to force confessions. Rape is very common and deliberately overlooked.

Our Egyptian contact who volunteered to talk with UNHCR staff and with police sources was unable to confirm if the protection officer at UNHCR Egypt is the same foul-mouthed Kenyan lady who was working at the South Sudan UNHCR office in Juba in 2013-2014 and who kept insulting and kicking out Eritrean refugees who came to the office to apply for asylum. Whether it is the same person or two, this only shows serious problems with some UNHCR personnel and with the way the agency recruits their staff.

Living conditions are getting worse at Shegerab Refugeee camp


Eritrean refugees’ situation in Shegerab refugee camp, Sudan is getting worse. Our monitor from Sudan communicated with some of the refugees and they explained to him that there is shortage of basic necessities like food, water and shelter and their conditions are abject. In addition, as it is rainy season, the refugees are prone to different epidemic diseases, sadly the UNHCR and other concerned organizations are not acting to improve their conditions.

In other news, On 22nd and 23rd of July 2019, Sudanese security forces in Khartoum, Sudan conducted rounding up of Eritrean refugees who do not have residence permits in the city. So far 86 Eritreans are detained in Arebi and Omdurman prisons and are going to pay some amount of money which will be determined by court for their release.

The Eritrean refugees are continuously victims of repeated rounding ups, detentions and financial fines. Last month, for example, those who were rounded up and detained paid 10,000 Sudanese Pound for their release.

Though according to the Sudanese laws, refugees are required to have residence permit or renew their papers, the amount of money required to get or renew residence permit is becoming expensive (it has increased from 500 to 2000 Sudanese pound).

Free Eritrean refugees detained in Egypt

On 21 July 2019, Egyptian police violently dispersed 500 Eritrean refugees who were holding a peaceful demonstration protesting UNHCR handling of Eritrean refugees in Egypt. The police also rounded up 90 of the demonstrators and took them to a prison outside of Cairo. The detained refugees are being taken to court within these two days and without any legal representation.

On the same evening, the police released most of the detained refugees but separated five of them and made them to remain in jail. The police had already confiscated the refugee papers of the five refugees when they rounded them up. They are now being held at the Haya AlAsher prison in 1st October City and being interrogated intensively, presumably to force them to agree they were planning something more than a peaceful protest.

Many of the refugees suspect that some Eritrean government supporters had a hand in misinforming the Egyptian police to convince them the refugees were planning something political rather than demanding that the UNHCR in Egypt do its job properly and according to its mandate. If no preventive action is taken, the refugees might get deported to Eritrea where, as outspoken critics of the human rights violations in Eritrea, they will be in immediate danger to their lives. The Eritrean government would like to see the deportation of these refugees as that would help to silence voices of dissent from Eritreans in abroad.

The UNHCR office in Egypt has not yet released any comments on the issue. The UNHCR office in Cairo has not met or talked with the refugees regarding the demonstration.

The five Eritrean refugees who are still being held by police have not committed any crimes. They are simply being held for protesting corruption within the UNHCR office in Egypt.

Having left their country to escape human rights violations by an extremely repressive tyrannical dictatorship, these refugees now find themselves detained without cause.

We ask all relevant organisations, including the UNHCR, to work to find a fast solution to this urgent issue as the police prepare to take them to court within the next two days.


Eritrea Refugees and Asylum Seekers in Egypt calling UNHCR office in Egypt to work according its mandate.

We need to let the world know and open its eyes that we Eritrean Refugees and Asylum seekers have repeatedly trying to condemn the UNHCR office in Egypt for it’s not working according to its mandate. Nevertheless we have not got any positive response in improving the frustrating situation that we are passing through; rather the office still remains persistent in defending itself with meaningless justifications. To mention some from the many complaints that the Eritrean Refugees and Asylum seekers are suffering from the unjust and unfair overall Processes and Procedures followed by the office and sometimes may be by the state which we’re not sure about:-

1. Registration
A)   Delays and repetitive postponement of appointments for newly arrived asylum seekers in order for them to get registered only. No proper applications of the basic principles and approaches of the UNHCR office with regards to this issue.

B)  Instead of searching mechanisms by which the asylum seekers get served right away, unwanted delays have become a headache for the underage and unaccompanied Asylum seekers for they don’t have an identity card.

C)  UNHCR office doesn’t provide with ID card (Yellow or Blue) to most underage and unaccompanied children; thus they don’t receive any educational grants and financial assistance. And the consequence is that their lives have become very miserable beyond someone can imagine. Unwanted pregnancy, addiction to different drugs, homelessness and the likes have become very common and alarming which needs great care and attention to overcome.

D)  It’s well known that Eritrean Asylum seekers have become beneficial of the merge RSD process which merges the registration and the RSD interview only in Feb, 2018 while the asylum seekers of the other nationalities have started to benefit from the new approach a year ahead. This is one from the many acts that proves Eritrean Asylum seekers and refugees have become vulnerable to discrimination which is in opposition to Article 3 of the 1951 Refugee convention – Non-Discrimination as to race, religion or Country of Origin.

E)  The UNHCR office doesn’t regularly update its database with regards to the Eritreans who are registered and we see many Asylum seekers with their files remain active while in reality these individuals are nonexistent in Egypt in anyways. Thus this mystifying information the office is using could definitely have negative impact in the succeeding steps of the processes and may hinder from accessing to certain services.

2. RSD (Refugee Status Determination):

Eritrean Asylum seekers awaiting refugee status decision from UNHCR have stick in a limbo beyond limit which anyone can’t tolerate and has brought serious consequences for stability and well-being. (Delays to sit for RSD interview by receiving appointment extension SMS messages AND delays in receiving results when the Asylum seeker was lucky enough to sit for RSD). To mention some from the consequences:-

A) Life threatening journey through the Sahara Desert back to Sudan or Libya  where a number of people are perished becomes the inevitable last desperate option for our Eritrean young fellows.

B) Mostly underage and single mothers are becoming the targets and victims of human traffickers.

C) The status of the asylum seekers remains undetermined for a long period of time and that led to uncertainty of the future of the claimants and their dependents for those with their family.

D) Following the late start of merge RSD process for Eritreans (only in Feb, 2018), many claimants frustrated by receiving new text message with extremely long period appointment extension instead of benefiting from the new strategy.

E) Despite the newly adopted system of one way of interviewing for RSD; the appointment dates of many asylum seekers is prolonged and postponed for 3 or 4 times. Those delays are leading to unexpected psychological depressions. So unintentionally asylum seekers particularly are forcing to take risky decisions in their lives. As a result they are exposed to a miserable life, like unwanted addictions, life threatening journey through Sahara to Sudan and Libya typically in a suicidal way.

3. Protection
A) Egypt has reservations in the 1951 refugee convention with regards to Articles 20, and 22-24, which guarantees the equal rights to refugees as nationals in terms of Primary Education, Labor, Social security and public relief. And these restrictions primarily affect the livelihood of Eritrean refugees as they limit the possibilities of being employed and access to basic Education.

B) Our socio-cultural differences with the people of the host country makes integration complicated and we have become victims of multiple abuses and violence as a consequence.

C) We do not have a clear way of approaching the legal institutions (the police and the court) when incidents happened. We’re living in a state of anxiety as many of our fellows have been severely attacked in the heart of the capital city. No perpetrator has been brought to court of justice to be tried for his criminal acts which clearly show exercising Article 16 of the 1951 refugee convention – the right to access the court practically becomes easier said than done.

D) Unavailability of fundamental assistance (financial and security issues) from the UNHCR and its partners exposes most Eritrean asylum seekers and refugees to stay and live together in large number congested in a small living room regardless of our gender differences.

E) As there is no ground where we can work legally which is against Articles 17 – 19 of the 1951 refugee convention, we are forced to engage in any kind of job as house maid, cleaner and so on to become a breadwinner. But we are unfortunate that we have become victims of different levels of violations and exploitation by our employers. There’s no way that we can bring the perpetrators to court of justice because simply the work is considered to be illegal.

F) It’s fair to say that the UNHCR hotline is not functioning at all. Especially in case of emergencies there should have a different way which we can approach the office. Usually communication fails and we remain simply wasting our time and money
without getting through.

G) Getting residence permit from the Immigration office is very complicated and our safety is compromised when we are required to lineup at night time. As these
procedures are repetitive for many times, the risk of the Asylum seekers and refugees falling in danger is inevitable.

H) No lawyer is hired by the UNHCR office to its clients for them to assist in overall livelihoods in the host society particularly with protection issues.

I) A number of Eritreans have been imprisoned and expelled when they arrive Egypt especially in the borders accusing that they have crossed the territories illegally which is contrary to Articles 31 and 32 of the 1951 refugee convention – the right not to be punished for illegal entry into the territory of a contracting state and the right not to be expelled, except under certain, strictly defined conditions.

J) Are there specified places that UNHCR in Egypt provide services assistance or not? Because under any circumstances when some emergency accidents out of Cairo happened, and refugees inform for an accurate support or follow ups from UNHCR the only feedback they receive is that the UNHCR haven’t any service/assistance coverage of the victims current presence. So how would UNHCR assign and demonstrate refugees right? As the organization stands for the behalf of refugees and asylum seekers there is no financial and supplementary feeding support service deliverance. As far as we don’t have residence permission to work, we are forced to face numerous neck constrains according to our livelihood.

4. RST (Resettlement)
A) The UNHCR, Embassies and IOM facilitate the limited cases with protection needs for resettlement to third countries. However it’s very sad to hear that the cases of some of our citizens are hijacked within the three above mentioned facilitating organizations when it reached in its final stage.

B) After RST interview is made, Eritrean refugees are forced to wait for a prolonged period time before they receive their results which is also main cause of frustration to many.

C) It is well known that education is the fundamental basis  of one community’s development  especially when the right curriculum is designed to fit the community. However, we are not only suffering from the discrepancies of the host country’s curriculum but also we don’t have enough education opportunity. As the result of this we are losing the aptitude to study and will impact negatively to our lives when we get resettled to a third country.

5. Social Welfare
A) When Asylum seekers arrive in the soil of Egypt and approaches the UNHCR for the first time, there is no fundamental assistance provided to them as simple as food and drinking water even for the first day of their arrival.

B) The financial assistance provided by the UNHCR and its partners is unfair and with lots of partiality in spite of its very limited amount.

C) Despite the fact that any refugee has no right to work, children are denied from getting any financial assistance only because they have not lost at least one of their parents; very sad.

D) In a very rare occasions when UNHCR distributes certain limited amount of money to refugees (for example weathering assistance, 2017), we have seen significant number of refugees and Asylum seekers remained inaccessible to get any. There was no way to complain how the office followed its allocation.

E) According to WFP’s unclear and conceivable procedures, those who need it are not getting sufficient assistance.

Caution: –  It’s not a mystery that most of the UNHCR office staffs are locals and it’s almost impossible for refugees or Asylum seekers to have direct access to contact and discuss their issues with the very insignificant number of the international staffs. And rejection to all our complaints is what to be expected from the National staffs may be thinking to protect the values of their society especially for cases related to protection. Therefore it’s high time to call the concerned bodies to investigate the matter as what extent these staffs had impacted all the burdens mentioned above to happen.

In conclusion, it’s worth mentioning Napoleon’s quote as once said “The world suffers a lot; Not because of the violence of bad people But because of the silence of good people”. The world in general and the UNHCR in particular may not be in a position to change the mind of the bad people and you may not be able to punish the perpetrators in anyways. But as a good entity or people, you have the ability to protect the victims by approaching
different practical strategies that really brings differences in the ground. We can confidently and with tangible evidence accuse the UNHCR office for it’s not guaranteeing the fundamental human rights of Eritrean refugees and Asylum seekers.

Apart from the Articles that Egypt has made reservations in the 1951 Refugee convention which literally creates legal barriers that alienate the refugees and asylum seekers communities from getting fundamental aids and assistance, we are being exposed to multiple levels of harassment and violations regularly which violate the right of freedom of movement.
Since the dreadfulness of the lives of Eritrean refugees and Asylum seekers here in Egypt is not controversial, it’s worth reminding concerned bodies that the possibilities of evacuating these vulnerable refugees and Asylum seekers to other potential host countries where the basic human rights are respected seems inevitable and should be done shortly instead of leaving us in a regretful and meaningless life. It’s in the hand of the UNHCR to make or break the future of ours and our children.

Thank you!
The Eritrean Refugee community in Egypt, Cairo

• July 21, 2019

More than 80 migrants missing after boat sinks off Tunisian coast

Over 80 African migrants are missing and feared dead after their boat capsized off the Tunisian coast on 4 July, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Four migrants were rescued by Tunisian fisherman after clinging for two days to debris from the shipwrecked boat. The rescued migrants were transferred to a migrant sheltering centre but one of the four later died from hypothermia in a local hospital.

“We, four people, sat on the wood,” one of the rescued migrants told Reuters. “The waves are hitting us. We had two days of that – sitting on that piece of wood. There were a lot of dead people.”

Survivors told the Tunisian coastguard that their dinghy was carrying 86 people including four women and two children.

Saddened by the latest tragedy, Vincent Cochetel, UNHCR Special Envoy for the Mediterranean, said in a statement, “The status quo cannot continue. Nobody puts their lives and the lives of their families at risk on these desperate boat journeys unless they feel they have no other choice. We need to provide people with meaningful alternatives that stop them from needing to step foot on a boat in the first place.”

The incident came a day after an airstrike on a Libyan migrant detention centre killed at least 60 migrants.
The ongoing conflict in Libya is pushing thousands of migrants detained in the country to look for a safe way out of Libya. Many migrants are attempting to flee from the west coast of Libya bordering Tunisia. In June, at least 65 migrants drowned when their boat capsized off the Tunisian coast after they had left Libya hoping to reach Europe.

The Mediterranean is still the “world’s deadliest sea crossing”, according to a new report from the IOM. From January to June 2019, latest IOM data showed that at least 597 people died while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea.