UNHCR expresses concern over new restrictions for Syrian refugees in Egypt

Press Releases, 12 July 2013

Geneva, 12.07.2013

UNHCR is concerned about reports we have received this week of a number of flights carrying Syrians being turned back from airports in Egypt. Syrian nationals were returned to where their flight originated, including Damascus and Latakia in Syria.

This follows a decision on 8 July imposing new visa requirements, under which Syrian nationals are required to apply for a visa and security clearance prior to their travel to Egypt. UNHCR understands the Egyptian Embassy in Damascus does not have the capacity to issue visas at this time.

"I appeal to the Egyptian authorities, as I have to all other governments in the world, to admit and protect all Syrians seeking refuge in their country," UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said. "I fully understand the challenges faced by Egypt at the present moment. But the traditional hospitality of the Egyptian people should not be denied to Syrians trying to flee the most devastating and dangerous conflict in the world today," he continued.

UNHCR has formally expressed its concern about this change in policy with the government, noting Egypt's great support since 2011, particularly in generously hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees.

We urge the Egyptian authorities to do their utmost to ensure the continued protection of all who are in need of international protection, and to refrain from returning Syrians without a proper assessment of their protection needs.

UNHCR has registered almost 72,000 Syrian refugees in Egypt. Around 18,000 individuals await registration and plans for mobile registration in Alexandria and Damietta are under way. The Egyptian government estimates that around 250,000 to 300,000 Syrian nationals currently reside in Egypt.

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