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HRW: Egypt has detained 1,500 refugees from Syria

Human Rights Watch issued a report on Monday accusing the Egyptian authorities of detaining around 1,500 refugees who fled the internal conflict in Syria and preparing to deport them soon.

According to the report, more than 400 Palestinians refugees and 250 children are among those to be deported.

The detained refugees were seized while attempting to migrate to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea because of the difficult economic circumstances and the increasing "hostility" they have experienced in Egypt.

Human Rights Watch quotes the UN Refugee Commission (UNRC) as saying that 1,200 refugees, including 200 Palestinians, were forced to leave.

UNRC information obtained on 4 November shows that dozens of refugees have been returned back to Syria, and that hundreds are still under arbitrary detention inside Egyptian police stations.

The HRW report also contends that Palestinian refugees coming to Egypt from Syria experience "the worst conditions" in the region. The report says that Egyptians do not allow them to claim UNRC protection. They are informed to travel to Lebanon or to return to Syria instead.

The report argues that this "violates" the UNRC working terms according to the Refugee Agreement signed by Egypt in 1951.

Joe Stork, the Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at HRW, observed that: "Egypt leaves Palestinian refugees coming from death fields in Syria without protection. They are being detained in miserable circumstances."

Stork called for an immediate release of all Palestinian refugees currently detained in Egypt. At the same time, he expressed hope that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who visited Egypt on Monday, also asked the Egyptian authorities to release them.

Many Syrian and Palestinian refugees who migrated to Egypt during the Syrian conflict have started to leave because of the strong pressures being placed on them.

Egyptian coast guards were accused of launching live bullets at a smuggling boat when two refugees were killed and two others were injured last September.

Refugees started facing this pressure after the military coup against the democratically elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on 3 July.

Spokespeople of the Egyptian state have repeatedly denied the reports about the authorities putting pressure on refugees from Syria. But the facts on the ground appear to contradict their remarks.

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