Amnesty International slammed Egypt on Thursday for unlawfully arresting and deporting hundreds of Syrian refugees, including women and children.
“Instead of offering vital help and support to refugees from Syria, the Egyptian authorities are arresting and deporting them, flouting human rights standards,” Sherif Elsayed Ali, Amnesty’s head of refugee and migrants’ rights said in a statement, carried by Agence France-Presse.
“Most refugees lost their homes and livelihoods when they fled Syria. Failing to help and protect them is a stain on the reputation of Egypt and could seriously damage its image as a key stakeholder in the region.”
Ali also said Egypt was failing “abysmally to meet its international obligations to protect even the most vulnerable refugees.”
Amnesty said hundreds of refugees who fled Syria, including scores of children, face ongoing detention in poor conditions, or deportation.
It said the Egyptian navy has intercepted around 13 boats carrying refugees from Syria in their attempt to reach Europe.
Quoting the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, Amnesty said that some 946 people have been arrested by Egypt while attempting the crossing, and that 724 remain in detention.
Egyptian authorities say the country has taken in more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, with some trying to leave for Europe aboard overcrowded ships.
The media has often accused refugees of backing the Muslim Brotherhood and of being involved in political violence that erupted in Egypt after the ouster of President Mohammad Mursi.
Amnesty said that, in most cases, those arrested are being kept in detention under orders of the national security agency, even after the public prosecution orders their release.
Several lawyers told Amnesty that they were prevented from representing refugees detained in police stations along Egypt’s Mediterranean coast.