22 August 2008

Egypt: Deadly Journeys Through the Desert

"Here it is like war for us and back home it is war also, there is no difference."

"We fled from death but death is after us; we don't know what is happening to our relatives back home in camps for the displaced. Staying there would have been better than what happened to us”

A Sudanese refugee from the Darfur region who attempted to cross the border of Egypt with Israel and served a one year prison sentence in Egypt

In a briefing published on August 20th, Amnesty International recognized the responsibility of the Egyptian government to respect the fundamental human right to life in their efforts to control their borders. While Amnesty understands the government's need to regulate the movement of foreign nationals in and out of its borders, the use of excessive force to curtail refugees fleeing one of the worst war zones in the world is a flagrant misuse of justice.

Since mid-2007 hundreds of refugees from the sub-saharan region have attempted to cross over Egypt in an attempt to reach Israel, and some end up paying with their lives. International standards restrict the use of deadly military force to a handful of circumstances; if lives are in danger and there is no other means to respond.

Even if refugees survive their journey, there is still no guarantee of safety. Amnesty has evidence against Egypt suggesting a disregard for international standards by forcibly ejecting refugees from the country without giving them access to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees office to assess their status claims. Once returned to their country of origin, refugees face a real and present danger to their safety and well-being. In a memorandum addressed to President Hosni Mubarak Amnesty is asking the following things from Egypt:

1. Restrict the use of force to comply with international standards
2. Ensure that military personnel are given human rights training
3. Investigate promptly and impartially instances of excessive force used on refugees
4. Ensure that refugees are not detained for immigration purposes, and stop trying civilians in military courts
5. Cease all forcible returns where those returned face risk of serious human rights violations, and comply with UNHCR guidelines.

More information here

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