Egypt has long been a refuge for migrant groups arriving from conflict-ridden countries. Refugees have been transiting from the Horn of Africa through Egypt’s southern borders all the way through Sinai with the hope of reaching Israel and more recently Libya, both approached as gateways to Europe. However, many of such groups fail to accomplish their journey due to their inability to afford onward travel and to exit the country. Recent trends indicate an increase in refugee influx to Egypt resulting from the Libyan and Syrian crises. Mid-2013 figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) indicate the registration of almost 116,000 recognized refugees and asylum seekers, mainly consisting of Syrians, Palestinians, Sudanese, Somalis, Iraqis, Ethiopians and Eritreans. The actual refugee population is however greater – Syrian refugees alone are estimated by the government to be 300,000.
Egypt is a signatory to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, but maintains reservations concerning four of the five ‘welfare’ provisions in Chapter IV of the Convention, which limits refugees’ access to education and other public services. While these migration flows pose important challenges to the local host communities, transiting groups are highly vulnerable and more likely to be exposed to various forms of exploitation.
Apart from refugee groups, Egypt is a country of destination with a stock of foreign workers estimated to exceed 297,000 immigrants, corresponding to 0.4% of the total population.
As a country of origin, Egypt is a sending country of both permanent and temporary migrant workers; the latter of which account for the majority and are concentrated in the Gulf States. An ever-present trend of irregular migration to Europe through the Mediterranean was accelerated in the post-2011 revolution in response to the deteriorating socio-economic and security conditions. However, the sizable Egyptian Diaspora can play an important role in linking migration to local development. In fact, in 2013 Egypt ranked the sixth largest receiver of remittances amounting to USD 20 billion.
Switzerland’s support in areas of protection and migration consists of three main lines of action:
- Protection of vulnerable persons
- Migration policy development and management
- Migration and development
International Organization for Migration (IOM) Sinai and IOM South Egypt:
- Promoting health protection for detained migrants in Sinai and Upper Egypt.
- IOM Voluntary Repatriation: Providing durable solutions for 366 migrants wishing to return to their countries of origin by assisting their safe and dignified voluntary return in close cooperation with UNHCR and national authorities.
- IOM – UNHCR Regional Protection: Protecting migrants’ human rights along the East African Route. The project aims to support governmental and non-governmental partners to protect migrants’ human rights along the East African Route.
- International Labour Organization – Interregional Arab Labour Migration Program: Supporting a regional project that focuses on the reform of labour migration policy, on employment constraints and potentials, as well as on migrant workers’ rights and their protection.
- Syria Crisis - Quick Impact Actions: Supporting civil society organizations in addressing the pressing needs of the vulnerable Syrian refugees in Egypt.
- El Gora - Quick Impact Action (in preparation): Increasing the protection of vulnerable migrants in Sinai and mobilizing community leaders, grassroots organizations, and youths against human trafficking.
- Migration and Development: Supporting local capacities to harness the development potential of migration and engaging the Diaspora community in the development of their home country.
- Collaborative Protection Fund (in preparation): Improving the protection of refugees in Egypt through the support of the concerned service providers. The initiative is expected to strengthen the political dialogue with the Government of Egypt on issues pertaining to refugees and migration.