Egyptian organizations condemn the Egyptian authorities’ refusal, specifically the Immigration and Passports Authority, to extend or issue permits for the temporary entry and residence of Gazans stranded in Egypt. We call on the Egyptian authorities to urgently issue a decision to extend all crossing and residence permits at least for three months, renewable, until the genocidal war stops or to establish an exceptional residence permit for the Gazans stranded in Egypt. We also demand that those deprived of having permits during the ongoing genocide war be exempted from any legal consequences, such as financial fines or security decisions rejecting the issuance of permits again.
Over the past weeks, the “Refugees Platform in Egypt (RPE)” documented a major crisis facing stranded Gazans in Egypt in obtaining a permit to enter or transit via Egypt before the Israeli genocidal war starts. These are legal violations justified by the Egyptian authorities under what so-called “security verification”, as Palestinians in the Gaza Strip wait for weeks, and sometimes months, to obtain the permit known as “security coordination”, leading to cases of patients dying during the waiting period.
It also caused many Gazan students in Egypt to lose the scholarships they have or to be delayed in starting the official school sessions. In the case of issuing a permit, its duration is limited to a maximum of three days for crossing and one month at most for entry. Before the expiration of the permit period, they must leave the country, or else they are exposed to legal consequences, including financial penalties and being placed on the so-called “blacklist of crossing permits”. This exposes all Gazans in Egypt to the risk of exploitation, threatens their security and safety, and punishes them for their legitimate right to travel, as Egypt is the only land border exit for the sector.
On October 7th, 2023, Israel initiated a genocidal war on the Gaza Strip, and it continues as we write this statement. This includes multiple attacks on the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, as well as checkpoints, crossing points, and security walls, including the historic Salah al-Din Gate. It has become impossible to envision safe life within the Gaza Strip due to the ongoing Israeli genocidal war, blockade, starvation, the collapse of the healthcare infrastructure, and the absence of any haven within the territory.
Additionally, the Egyptian authorities continue using the “Israeli security commitment” as a pretext to obstruct any movement in or out of the Gaza Strip. There is a deliberate prohibition on the crossing of Gazan men or youth in most cases, including for medical reasons, based on the same aforementioned justifications (Israeli/Egyptian security clearance).
The Rafah Crossing is the sole gateway for Gazans to the world, whether to Egypt or to transit through it to other countries. Hundreds of Palestinians have become stranded in Egypt due to the suspension of its operation. Among them are those who arrived in Egypt before the start of the aggression for various reasons, and others who were returning from other countries to the Gaza Strip via Egypt or were evacuated from the Gaza Strip and hold other nationalities. Some of the stranded Gazans found themselves cut off in northern Sinai after the start of the aggression while awaiting their return to the Gaza Strip, while others became stranded in Greater Cairo.
According to information documented by RPE with individuals and Palestinian families stranded in Egypt, all entry and transit permits granted to them have expired. Individuals face the risk of being deprived of basic rights due to the absence of a legally recognized identity in the Egyptian legal system. Their presence and movement become criminalized, exposing them to punishment and danger. For example, telecommunications services from Egyptian companies registered in their names are suspended, and these services only remain active for the duration of the permit.
In addition, Gazans whose residence permits have expired cannot access health services and emergency services. Furthermore, they are deprived of accessing the justice system in case of any assault, and they are unable to carry out any legal procedures, even if they are simple and fundamental, such as signing a rental agreement. They cannot use any type of banking services and money transfers, which completely disrupts their lives and prevents them from having essential services and necessities. This exposes them to the risk of exploitation in to meet basic needs for sustaining life.
Under these difficult and unlawful conditions, those whose permits have expired and authorities refuse to regularize their exceptional and urgent situation face the risk of detention and arrest at checkpoints, even if their movement is limited within the neighborhood or area where they reside.
In light of the current circumstances, the Egyptian authorities must urgently reassess this ongoing illegal and inhumane treatment that has persisted for years. Urgently, the undersigned organizations demand the issuance of an urgent decision that includes:
- Empowering the issuance of an exceptional residence permit to regulate the status of Gazans at least for three months, renewable, until the Israeli genocide war stops.
- Extending expired residence permits until the cessation of the Israeli genocide war, the lifting of the blockade, and the possibility of returning to Gaza Strip or completing travel procedures to another country for dual nationals.
In both cases:
- Those affected must be exempted from legal consequences in the current circumstances, including financial fines or security decisions rejecting the issuance of permits again.
- Egypt must cease its official obstinacy in issuing or extending permits based on international law, considering that the sector has been undergoing an unprecedented genocidal war for over two months.
- Reuniting Egyptian-Palestinian families and allowing them to cross the border area as quickly as possible
- The Refugees Platform in Egypt (RPE)
- El Nadeem Centre
- Egyptian Front for Human Rights (EFHR)
- Egyptian Human Rights Forum (EHRF)