INTRODUCTION & CONTEXT
The Arab Republic of Egypt (Egypt) continues to generously host Syrian refugees, despite the absence of a land border with Syria. As of September 2016, there are 117,350 Syrian asylum-seekers and refugees (including 50,697 children) registered with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Egypt. Visa and security requirements introduced in July 2013 for Syrians entering Egypt are maintained. Government policy allows for family reunification, and the government has reiterated in September 2015 its willingness to extend entry visas for first-degree relatives of Syrian refugees already residing in Egypt, though Syrian families are experiencing delays in processing these visa requests.
Egypt is stretching its capabilities in every means possible to support the existing Syrian population living amongst the Egyptian people in an integrated manner, since there are no refugee camps in Egypt. Syrian refugees in Egypt are living in an urban setting among Egyptian communities across Egypt, with the most impacted governorates being Giza, Greater Cairo, Alexandria, Damietta and Qalyubia. Egypt represents a model with regards to the social inclusiveness dimension. The country is currently hosting nearly half a million Syrians who live alongside Egyptians in various areas sharing public services, resources and many of the local citizen privileges. This is clearly a burden on a country, which has already been facing a difficult economic situation over the recent years in the wake of the Arab Spring and the political, economic and societal turbulences associated with it.
In 2012, a presidential decree equated the treatment of Syrians refugees in Egypt with the treatment of Egyptian citizens with regard to health services and education. Additionally, Syrians also benefit from all subsidized services provided by the state to Egyptian citizens such as energy, transportation and food. Such sharing of public services and government subsidies represents an added burden on the Egyptian economy. There have been notable developments particularly in the health and education sectors, where the Government of Egypt has been proactive in supporting access to services. Egypt is currently facing severe macro-economic conditions with structural reforms and high inflation that will disproportionately impact the lives of the vulnerable and poor including refugees. The national poverty rate has continued to increase since 2011, reaching 27.8 percent and unemployment rates remain high. 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 further need to expand support in promoting employment opportunities and self-sufficiency among both the refugees and Egyptian communities, who are likely to face mounting pressure during the next two-year period.
Despite efforts to strengthen coping, recovery and mitigation capacities of refugees and host communities as well as support to state institutions, irregular departures by foreign nationals, including asylum-seekers and refugees by sea continue to increase. Loss of hope in the resolution of causes of conflict in their country of origin coupled with a perceived lack of future in Egypt has contributed to some refugees departing and seeking entry into Europe.