Egypt accused of ignoring refugee law

Nov. 4, 2007 at 12:29 PM
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NEW YORK, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- A Human Rights Watch official has accused Egypt of ignoring refugee law in its treatment of asylum seekers from Sudan.

Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Director Sarah Leah Whitson said Egypt has detained 48 asylum seekers detained and not allowed the United Nations access to them, the organization reported.

"We are extremely worried by Egypt’s failure to account for these people," Whitson said in an HRW news release. "The entire incident reveals Egypt and Israel’s shared disregard for the plight of Sudanese fleeing Darfur."

While Egyptian officials have not been open regarding the refugees' current status, earlier reports had Egypt forcibly returning five of the asylum seekers to Sudan.

Whitson said that by forcing refugees back to war-torn regions like Darfur, Egypt was clearly not assessing their refugee status as required under refugee law.

"Egypt cannot avoid its obligation to assess the refugee status of persons fleeing a conflict by preventing the UN refugee agency from seeing them," she said. "Egypt is thumbing its nose at a fundamental principle of refugee law."

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