World Refugee Survey 2004 Country Report
Egypt hosted about 69,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2003, including some 50,000 Palestinians, about 15,000 Sudanese, nearly 3,000 Somalis, and more than 1,000 refugees from various other countries.
Palestinians Most Palestinian refugees in Egypt were displaced from the West Bank and Gaza by the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinian refugee population was believed to number 50,000 or more persons at the end of 2003. Some estimate the number of Palestinians to be as high as 70,000.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees on a case-by-case basis.
Refugee Status Determination Egypt is a party to the UN Refugee Convention, but has no domestic asylum laws. As in previous years, the Egyptian government allowed UNHCR to determine the refugee status of individual asylum seekers, and more than 1,000 persons seeking asylum in Egypt contacted UNHCR each month during 2003. The agency granted more than 10,000 persons refugee status during the year, an increase by about half over 2002.
More than 5,000 Sudanese refugees fled to Egypt during 2003. UNHCR interviewed some 10,000 Sudanese asylum applicants during the year and granted refugee status to more than 8,000.
More than 3,000 recognized Somali refugees lived in Egypt, including more than 1,500 Somalis granted refugee status during 2003.
Refugee Living Conditions Three million or more Sudanese lived in Egypt during 2003. It was unclear how many feared persecution in Sudan, and how many resided in Egypt for economic and other reasons. Restrictions on Sudanese migrants remained in place during 2003. The majority of refugees resided in destitute refugee and immigrant communities in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and the port city of Alexandria. For the third consecutive year, Egyptian authorities allowed recognized refugees and asylum seekers awaiting status determination decisions to seek work and new Egyptian laws reduced the fee Sudanese refugees paid for work permits during 2003. Egyptian laws, however, still barred refugees from government-subsidized health care and forced them to pay higher housing costs than Egyptian citizens.
Egyptian immigration authorities provided residency permit stamps to refugees and asylum seekers during 2003. These stamps gave temporary residency to refugees and asylum seekers until a durable solution was found or status determination was conducted respectively.
UNHCR assisted only impoverished refugees identified by a strict Needs Assessment Committee managed jointly by UNHCR and CARITAS, an international nongovernmental humanitarian assistance organization. Refugees characterized as “the most needy” received a monthly subsistence allowance, partial education grants (for families with school-aged children), and basic medical care. Financial constraints forced UNHCR to limit vocational training for fewer than 200 refugees.
Refugee Resettlement More than 3,000 refugees in Egypt resettled in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe during 2003 as part of a process administered by UNHCR, other agencies, and foreign governments. More than 3,000 Sudanese and about 200 Somalis resettled abroad.