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Tough Times for Syrian Refugees in Egypt

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Around 135,000 Syrians have registered with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Egypt. Estimates by UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations suggest that the Syrian refugee population in the country could be twice that number. Egypt’s political upheavals, along with national policies that obstruct the work of humanitarian organizations, have left Syrian refugees there with little visibility or assistance outside the communities where they live. More international attention must be directed towards these marginalized populations.

Egypt already has functioning systems in place for helping refugees. But those systems require additional support from donors, the national government, and Egyptians themselves if they are to meet the basic needs of people who have fled there.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS:

  • The government of Egypt should lift the entry restrictions it has imposed on Syrian citizens.

  • Donor countries to the Regional Response Plan for Syrians – particularly the United States, the European Union, and its member states – should specifically direct more resources to the United Nations Refugee Agency’s operations in Egypt.

  • Donor countries and development agencies should do more to support the country’s public services in areas where refugees are living.

  • The government of Egypt should allow already-registered international and local non-governmental organizations to expand their programming to include new projects for Syrian refugees. This should include permission for transfer of international funds for the NGOs.

  • Countries with resident Syrian populations should permit and facilitate family reunification for Syrians.

Daryl Grisgraber and Jeff Crisp traveled to Egypt in April 2014, visiting Cairo, New Damietta, and Alexandria.