Last Updated: Friday, 24 November 2017, 06:46 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Egypt

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Egypt , 1 June 2003, available at: [accessed 24 November 2017]
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 80,000 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of 2002, including some 50,000 Palestinians, about 20,000 Sudanese, nearly 7,000 Somalis, and more than 1,000 refugees from various other countries.

More than 2,000 Egyptians were seeking asylum in Western 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 2002, 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 is not a party to the UN Refugee Convention and has no domestic asylum laws.

As in previous years, the Egyptian government allowed UNHCR to determine the refugee status of individual asylum seekers in 2002.

More than 1,000 persons seeking asylum in Egypt contacted UNHCR each month. The agency granted approximately 5,000 persons new refugee status during the year.

Approximately 19,000 status determination cases were pending at year's end.

UNHCR interviewed nearly 15,000 Sudanese asylum applicants during the year and granted refugee status to about 4,000.

Some 12,000 Sudanese awaited asylum interviews at year's end.

Nearly 2,000 recognized Somali refugees lived in Egypt, including more than 500 Somalis granted refugee status during 2002. Approximately 5,000 Somalis awaited screening interviews.

UNHCR employed more than 20 additional staff during 2002 to accelerate refugee screening, substantially reducing the accumulated backlog of asylum applications.

Refugee Living Conditions

Three million or more Sudanese lived in Egypt during 2002. It was unclear how many 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 to curb the influx of largely economic Sudanese migrants, however.

Most restrictions remained in place during 2002. The majority of refugees resided in destitute refugee and immigrant communities in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and the port city of Alexandria.

For the second consecutive year, Egyptian authorities allowed recognized refugees and asylum seekers awaiting status determination decisions to seek work.

Egyptian laws, however, still barred refugees from government-subsidized health care and forced them to pay higher housing costs than Egyptian citizens.

Most of the estimated 10,000 recognized non-Palestinian refugees in Egypt received limited aid from UNHCR. The agency assisted only impoverished refugees identified by a strict Needs Assessment Committee managed jointly by the Egyptian government and UNHCR.

Refugees characterized by UNHCR as "the most needy" received a monthly subsistence allowance, partial education grants (for families with school-aged children), medical care, and vocational training.

The agency cut already inadequate subsistence allowances for the poorest refugees to about $15 per refugee per month during 2002, a reduction of more than 70 percent compared to four years earlier.

Financial constraints further curtailed UNHCR's assistance programs during 2002. During the past four years, UNHCR's budget has decreased by more than 40 percent, while the number of refugees has increased by more than 40 percent and the number of asylum seekers has grown by more than 500 percent.

"The declining budget is creating a precarious situation for the rising number of refugees coming under the agency's care," UNHCR stated.

Refugee Resettlement

Nearly 2,000 refugees in Egypt permanently resettled in the United States, Canada, Australia, and Europe during 2002 as part of a formal resettlement process administered by UNHCR, other agencies, and foreign governments. More than 1,500 Sudanese and approximately 100 Somalis resettled abroad.

More stringent resettlement security clearance procedures, particularly for refugees scheduled for resettlement in the United States, delayed the departure of several hundred refugees.

As a result, significantly more refugees required UNHCR assistance during the year.

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