Human Rights Watch documents the Egyptian authorities’ detention of dozens of Sudanese refugees

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Human Rights Watch issued a statement saying that Egyptian police arbitrarily detained at least 30 Sudanese refugees and asylum seekers, including well-known activists, during raids last December and January, and that some of them were physically assaulted and subjected to forced labour.

Some of the targeted activists had mobilized support for demonstrations in front of the headquarters of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Cairo, protesting harassment and racist treatment by Egyptians, the lack of protection, and the delay in resettlement, the statement added. They also organized a demonstration in front of the Sudanese embassy in Cairo, expressing their solidarity with the protests in Sudan against the political role of the Sudanese army.

The organization quoted three Sudanese refugees, and a member of the African Refugee Rights group, as saying that the arrested refugees were taken to a security facility and forced to unload boxes marked “Long live Egypt” from large trucks to warehouses. The police used batons to beat people they claimed were not working seriously, insulting them with racist words, before leaving them the next day in the street, after confiscating their phones, the organization added. Activist Alfred Dejansen said that last Friday he witnessed the arrest of ten Sudanese from one family who were sleeping on the street near the UNHCR headquarters in Egypt, for not having enough money to rent a house.

The organization also said that the three refugees it spoke with said that the National Security summoned them twice during 2021, detained them sometimes for long hours, and threatened them with deportation to Sudan if they continued to mobilize the Sudanese community in front of the UNHCR office or reported violations against them. They added that the National Security tried to recruit them as informants, but they refused. Dejansen explained that the common situation with regard to refugees of African nationalities in Egypt is the threat of deportation, as happened to him personally.

One of the human rights lawyers working in legal support for refugees pointed out that the persecution of Sudanese refugees by the police in Egypt is a common occurrence as part of racist practices against black refugees. The Human Rights Watch statement comes a day after another Amnesty International statement warning the Egyptian authorities against deporting 50 Eritrean refugees.