Joint answer given by High Representative/Vice‑President Ashton on behalf of the Commission Written questions : E-010566/11 , E-012089/11 , P-012191/11
According to the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior, Sub-Saharan refugees are victims of gangs involved in human trafficking. The government led by Prime Minister Al-Ganzouri appointed on 7 December 2011 indicated that the Sinai is a strategic priority which should receive greater attention. It raises hope that the fight against organised crime will be intensified and that the Egyptian authorities will show more commitment in addressing the issue of refugees held hostages by human traffickers in the Sinai.
As regards the refugees detained by the Egyptian authorities, they are considered ‘infiltrators’ because they have crossed the border illegally and have not applied to the Egyptian authorities or to the UNHCR for asylum. UNHCR has been denied access to the detention facilities. Since September 2011, the Egyptian authorities have begun to expel these individuals to their countries of origin. The UNHCR has warned the Egyptian authorities that such expulsions could amount to a refoulement.
The EU Delegation in Cairo has met repeatedly with the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Interior to express its concerns regarding this issue but progress has so far been limited. The EU will continue to urge the Egyptian authorities to ensure the respect for human rights, including the protection of migrants and refugees. The EU has repeatedly invited Egypt to develop and improve the quality of the assistance and protection offered to asylum‑seekers and refugees residing or transiting on their territory. The EU has also pressed the Egyptian authorities to ensure that the principle of non-refoulement is observed for all migrants in need of international protection while UNHCR is given full possibility to implement its mandate on the entire territory of Egypt.