Egypt does not operate dedicated facilities for immigration-related detention, nor is there an official list of detention sites for this purpose. However, according to Decree 659 (1986), the following prisons should be used for the temporary custody of foreigners awaiting deportation: Qanater El-Kharereya Men’s Prison, Qanater El-Khayereya Women’s Prison, Alexandria Prison, Port Said Prison, and Tora Prison.
In mid-April, the Presidency pardoned 460 prisoners and announced plans to release additional persons – however neither of these announcements mentioned Covid-19 as the reason for the pardons (instead, they were to commemorate the 68th anniversary of the Battle of Ismailia, and Sinai Liberation Day), and the Global Detention Project has not been able to determine whether any migrants or asylum seekers were amongst those released. There is little information available regarding steps taken to protect prisoners, and rights activists have argued that the government is using the virus to further isolate detainees from the outside world. However, according to one Egyptian observer, social-distancing is not being implemented in cells, prison staff are not following health regulations, medical and sanitary supplies are not being allowed inside, and guards rarely wear masks.
According to Article 18 of the Egyptian Constitution, “denying any form of medical treatment to any human in emergency or life-threatening situations is a crime.” On 28 April, Egypt’s Foreign Minister said that refugees are to be provided assistance within the health care system as needed during the crisis, and that no efforts were being made to return people to their countries of origin. However, reports indicate that undocumented migrants and failed asylum seekers fear accessing health care, given the country’s track-record for detaining and deporting non-citizens.
- Global Detention Project, “Immigration Detention in Egypt: Military Tribunals, Human Rights Abuses, Abysmal Conditions, and EU Partner,” 28 September 2018, https://www.globaldetentionproject.org/countries/africa/egypt
- The New Arab, “Egypt Pardons Hundreds of Prisoners, Without Mention of Covid-19,” 17 April 2020, https://english.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2020/4/17/egypt-pardons-hundreds-of-prisoners-without-mention-of-covid-19
- J. Guyer, “A New Generation of Dissenters Dies in Egyptian Prison,” The American Prospect, 6 May 2020, https://prospect.org/world/new-generation-dies-egypt-prison-shady-habash/
- Daily News Egypt, “Shoukry Takes Part in Virtual Roundtable over COVID-19 Impact on Migration,” 28 April 2020, https://wwww.dailynewssegypt.com/2020/04/28/shoukry-takes-part-in-virtual-roundtable-over-covid-19-impact-on-migration/
- The Entrance to Cairo’s Tora Prison, (Getty Images, “Egypt Pardons Hundreds of Prisoners, Without Mention of Covid-19,” The New Arab, 17 April 2020, https://english.alaraby.co.uk/english/news/2020/4/17/egypt-pardons-hundreds-of-prisoners-without-mention-of-covid-19)