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UN Seeks More Access To Asylum-Seekers In Egypt

UN seeks increased access to asylum-seekers detained by Egypt

3 July 2008 - The United Nations refugee agency has interviewed nearly 180 Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum-seekers detained in Egypt to assess their claims for refugee status, and urged the authorities to continue to provide unhindered access to others who are being held.

Among the 179 Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum-seekers interviewed by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were 48 women and 20 children, including two boys suffering from trauma after their mother was killed in a car accident while they were on their way to Egypt.

The interviews took place in the Shalal detention centre in the southern Egyptian town of Aswan after authorization from the Government.

Radhouane Nouicer, Director of UNHCR's Middle East and North Africa bureau, welcomed the cooperation of the Egyptian authorities in permitting these interviews to take place under good conditions.

Egypt has seen an increase in the number of Eritreans entering the country illegally in recent months from Sudan or across the Red Sea from their homeland. UNHCR continues to be in discussions with relevant authorities to gain prompt and unhindered access to all asylum-seekers who are still being detained.

"We urge the Egyptian authorities to continue their generous asylum traditions and to allow access by UNHCR staff to all those reportedly in detention. We are engaged in frank discussions with the authorities and trust that those in need of international protection will continue to enjoy it in Egypt," said Mr. Nouicer.

Last month, UNHCR said it was concerned by "credible reports" of forcible returns of Eritrean asylum-seekers from Egypt despite appeals to halt any returns until the agency had had access to detention centres to determine their claims for international protection.

ENDS

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