INTRODUCTION & CONTEXT
Egypt is a destination country for refugees and asylum-seekers. As of December 2018, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Egypt has registered 244,910 refugees and asylum-seekers. Egypt continues to host a diverse refugee and asylum-seeker population, composed of 58 different nationalities, and Syrian refugees remain the largest population among them. Despite the absence of a land border with Syria, 132,871 individuals (54 percent of the total refugee and asylumseeker population) are from Syria, including 55,328 children (42 per cent of the entire Syrian refugee population). From January to December 2018, 8,866 Syrians were newly registered with UNHCR.
The protection environment for refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt, remains conducive.
While visa requirements introduced in July 2013 for Syrians entering Egypt are maintained, a number of Syrians continue to enter Egypt including on the basis of family reunification. The Government allows refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR to regularize their residency and grants six-month renewable residence permits. However, a major challenge faced by refugees and asylum-seekers is the lengthy process to obtain and renew residence permits valid only for six months. In February 2017, the Government of Egypt (GOE) has agreed to a proposal put forward by UNHCR to decentralize the process for issuing the permits beyond Cairo, and in October 2017 the GOE decided to prolong the duration of the residence permits to one year, but both decisions haven’t yet been implemented pending the digitalization of the procedures by MOI. Recently, MOI has introduced new measures to improve the granting and renewal of the residence permits. Advocacy continues with the GOE to enable all refugees to obtain a one-year residence permit based on their UNHCR documentation. Although government policies do not allow any forcible return to Syria, UNHCR continues its dialogue with the GOE regarding Syrians who have irregularly entered Egypt and wish to regularize their residency.
Syrian refugees live in urban areas alongside Egyptian communities across the country and are mainly concentrated in Greater Cairo, Alexandria and Damietta. As per 2012 presidential decree, Syrian refugees have access to public education and health services at an equal level of Egyptian nationals. Additionally, Syrians also benefit from all subsidies in the transport and food sectors, provided by the state to Egyptian citizens. Such sharing of public services and government subsidies represents an added challenge for the Egyptian economy, which has already been facing difficulties over the recent years. About a third of the Egyptians lived on less than the national poverty threshold in 2015, and another third is estimated to be vulnerable. Although unemployment has started to decrease2 , the employment rate was 40.5 percent in 2016 (17.6 percent for women) with a large share informally employed.
In 2016, Egypt has launched the 2030 Vision which follows the sustainable development goals as a general framework for improving the quality of lives and welfare for the growing population (96.3 million Egyptians in 20184 ). The Government has therefore embarked on an ambitious reform program and has implemented decisive measures to restore macroeconomic stability which are having a positive impact on the economy as market confidence is growing. Inflation continued to recede in the first half of 2018. However, the latest round of energy price increases in June, triggered a rise in inflation to an average of 14 percent. Continued price hikes of regulated goods and services are adversely affecting households, especially vulnerable groups.
Structural economic changes in Egypt significantly affect all aspects of the lives of refugees and asylum-seekers. The difficult socio-economic conditions and increases in the cost of living have reduced households’ purchasing power5 and exacerbated the levels of vulnerability. This has resulted in refugee and asylum-seeker households not being able to meet their basic needs and, therefore, their dependence on humanitarian assistance has increased.
In this context, resilience activities are crucial to support the GOE efforts to provide health services and education to Syrian refugees and further enhance the capacity of national institutions to absorb and respond to the increasing demand on public services.
While state institutions play a key role in supporting Syrian refugees’ protection, education, and health needs, they require further support in providing broad and quality services for both the refugee and host communities. In addition, there is a need to expand support in promoting livelihood and self-sufficiency among both refugees and Egyptian communities, who are likely to face mounting pressure during the next two-year period.
In addition to hosting Syrian refugees, Egypt also hosts 105,885 asylum-seekers and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, Iraq, and Yemen. These populations account currently for 45 per cent of the total number of asylum-seekers and refugees registered with UNHCR (237,389) in Egypt, including 38,980 Sudanese (16 per cent), 15,444 Ethiopians (6 per cent), 14,770 Eritreans (6 per cent), 13,616 South Sudanese (6 per cent), and 23,075 from other nationalities including Somalis, Iraqis and Yemenis.
The GOE and agencies are committed to ensuring equity in access to protection, services and humanitarian assistance for Africans, Iraqis and Yemenis registered with UNHCR. As part of the advocacy towards a one refugee approach in Egypt, a Response Plan for Refugees and Asylum Seekers from Sub-Saharan Africa, Iraq and Yemen was launched by eight appealing partners in collaboration with the GOE. The response plan aims to continue addressing the needs of over 105,000 refugees and asylum-seekers mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa as well as from Iraq, Yemen and 50 other countries with identified funding requirements of USD 41.8 million.