Follow up to EGY34538.E of 9 June 2000 regarding the protection and assistance offered to Sudanese refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [EGY35551.E]

In a letter dated 17 August 2000, a Senior Protection Officer with the Canadian Branch Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided the following information regarding refugee determination in Egypt:

Egypt is party to the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol related to the Status of Refugees and the 1969 OAU [Organization of African Unity] Convention. Egypt ratified the 1951 Convention on 22 May, 1981 with reservations to articles 12(1) (personal status), 20 (rationing), 22(1) (access to primary education), 23 (access to public relief and assistance) and 24 (labour legislation and social security).
However, Egypt has not adopted any domestic legislation to implement the 1951 Convention. There is no national procedure for the determination of refugee status in Egypt. The determination of individual requests for refugee status in Egypt is done by UNHCR - as has been the case since 1954. The government of Egypt expects that refugees recognized by UNHCR in Egypt will be resettled to third countries. ...
Asylum-seekers who approach UNHCR are in practice allowed by the Egyptian authorities to remain, at least until a final decision has been taken on their status by UNHCR. This temporary permission to stay is not defined in any legal instrument, however. ...
Given Egypt's cost of living, UNHCR-recognized refugees cannot expect to cover even the cost of renting a room, with the limited subsistence allowance provided by UNHCR. They must also secure their own food, as Egypt has made a reservation under Article 20 of the 1951 Convention, which excludes refugees from government-subsidized distribution of food products to certain vulnerable categories of Egyptian nationals.
Prospects for employment of refugees are limited in view of the Egyptian government's reservation to Article 24 of the 1951 Convention - combined with the economic situation and domestic regulations related to the employment of foreigners. The children of refugees recognized by UNHCR do not have access to free public education in view of Egypt's reservation to Article 22(1) of the 1951 Convention. During 1999, UNHCR was able to assist just over 1,100 refugee children to go to school, but again, education programs are limited by scarce funds. Similarly, in view of Egypt's reservation under Article 23 of the 1951 Convention, related to public relief, refugees do not have access to government-supplied medical care. During 1999, UNHCR assistance provided medical care for 4,200 refugees.

On the subject of Sudanese asylum-seekers in Egypt, the Senior Protection Officer stated:

At the end of 1999, there were 6,553 refugees registered with UNHCR in Egypt. The largest single group were Sudanese refugees (close to 2,600 at the end of 1999). ...
[T]here are a very large number of Sudanese in Egypt - a figure of up to three million is sometimes cited. Sudanese who approach UNHCR seeking determination of their refugee status, and who are found to be refugees, receive very modest assistance from UNHCR, within the limits of funds available to our office. The situation of these refugees remains precarious. Among the refugees are a number of female-headed households and other vulnerable groups.

This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Branch Office for Canada. 17 August 2000. Correspondence from Senior Protection Officer.