Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2018, 07:35 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Egypt

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Egypt , 10 June 2002, available at: [accessed 19 February 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Egypt hosted approximately 75,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2001, including some 50,000 Palestinians, about 18,000 Sudanese, nearly 4,000 Somalis, and more than 3,000 refugees from various other countries.


Most Palestinian refugees in Egypt were displaced from the West Bank and Gaza by the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinian refugee population was believed to number 50,000 or more persons at the end of 2001, with some estimates placing the number as high as 70,000.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees on a case-by-case basis.

Refugee Status Determination

Egypt has no domestic asylum laws. As in previous years, the Egyptian government in 2001 allowed UNHCR to determine the refugee status of individual asylum seekers.

During 2001, more than 1,000 families seeking asylum in Egypt contacted UNHCR each month. Approximately 6,000 persons were granted refugee status. More than 20,000 status determination cases were pending at year's end.

UNHCR interviewed about 10,000 Sudanese asylum applicants during the year and granted refugee status to about 3,000. Some 15,000 Sudanese awaited asylum interviews at year's end.

More than 1,000 recognized Somali refugees lived in Egypt, including nearly 500 Somali asylum seekers whom were granted refugee status during the year. About 3,000 Somalis awaited screening interviews. During 2001, UNHCR "de-registered" nearly 2,000 Somali refugees, most of whom had not contacted UNHCR for assistance since 1996.

The number of asylum seekers in Egypt has increased ten-fold during the past four years. In June, UNHCR deployed additional staff to Cairo to address the growing backlog of asylum applications. The increase in staff "would double the processing capacity of the office," UNHCR reported.

During 2001, Egyptian authorities agreed to provide registration cards to asylum seekers, enabling them to obtain temporary resident status and enhance their legal protection. UNHCR provided technical assistance to relevant Egyptian authorities in preparation for the eventual transfer of responsibility for registration and refugee status determination to the government of Egypt.

Refugee Living Conditions

Three million or more Sudanese lived in Egypt in 2001, according to various estimates. It was unclear how many Sudanese remained in Egypt because they feared persecution in Sudan, and how many resided in Egypt for economic and other reasons.

Until the late 1980s, Egyptian law made migration from Sudan to Egypt extraordinarily easy and automatically granted permanent resident status to Sudanese migrants. Egyptian officials even offered citizenship to many Sudanese residents. Egyptian authorities later tightened legal restrictions on Sudanese, however.

While most restrictions on Sudanese and other refugees remained in place during 2001, Egyptian authorities removed the phrase "prohibited to work" from renewed residence permits provided to UNHCR-recognized refugees. As a result, refugees in practice received clearance to work legally in Egypt, although many worked in poorly paid jobs that made local integration difficult. Egyptian laws still barred refugees from government-subsidized health care and forced them to pay higher housing costs than Egyptian citizens.

Most of the more than 7,000 recognized non-Palestinian refugees in Egypt received limited aid from UNHCR. Refugees characterized by UNHCR as "the most needy" received a monthly subsistence allowance, partial education grants, medical care, and vocational training.

Financial constraints, however, curtailed UNHCR's assistance programs during 2001. The relief agency was only able to help impoverished refugees found eligible by a strict Needs Assessment Committee managed jointly by the government of Egypt and UNHCR. Financial constraints also forced UNHCR to reduce already inadequate refugee subsistence allowances by 20 percent.

UNHCR continued to seek opportunities to reduce the dependency of refugees who had struggled for years to reach minimal levels of self-sufficiency in Egypt's destitute refugee and immigrant communities.


Nearly 2,000 refugees in Egypt permanently resettled in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe during 2001 as part of a formal resettlement process administered by UNHCR, other agencies, and foreign governments. Nearly 1,800 Sudanese and more than 200 Somalis resettled abroad.

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