In 2013 Egypt was host to about 253,260 refugees and asylum seekers. Estimates by local NGOs suggest that the number of refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt could be twice as high. Since the end of 2011, Egypt has been home to an increasing number of Syrian refugees. In 2013, more than half of the overall refugee population in Egypt was made up of Syrian nationals. Following the political and social upheaval in Egypt in the summer of 2013, an increasingly high number of arbitrary arrests and deportations of Syrian nationals have been reported by various human rights groups. From July 8 2013, Syrian nationals are required to obtain an entry visa and security clearance prior to their arrival. Based on numerous reports of deportation and denied entrance, this policy appears to have led to the de facto closure of Egypt's borders for refugees from Syria. 

The second largest refugee population in Egypt is Palestinian, who make up over a quarter of the overall population. Out of 70,000 Palestinian refugees in Egypt, less then one percent are assisted by UNHCR. This is a result of the policy in place by the Egyptian government which prevents UNHCR from registering Palestinian refugees. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) does not have a mandate in Egypt, meaning Palestinian refugees do not receive any UN assistance in the country.

Until the increased influx of Syrians, refugees from Sudan and South Sudan made up the largest group of refugees in Egypt. In 2011, nearly one quarter of the total refugee and asylum population was Sudanese; in 2013 they only made up 10 percent. The absolute number of Sudanese refugees in Egypt however, has increased since 2011. Currently more than 50 percent of those registered with the UNHCR are asylum seekers. About ten percent are of various other origins, including Somali, Iraqi, Ethiopian (mainly from the Oromo region) and Eritrean.

For those refugees and asylum seekers, Egypt can be both a host country and a transit point.

Legal Situation:
  • Egypt is a state party to both the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol and the 1969 Organization of African Unity Convention Governing Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa. 
  • Egypt has made reservations to the 1951 Refugee Convention. These reservations cover Article 12(1) (personal status), 20 (rationing), 22(1) (access to primary education), 23 (access to public relief and assistance) and 24 (labour legislation and social security). Despite the ratification of the 1951 Convention, Egypt has not adopted any domestic legislation to implement it.
  • A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Egyptian government and UNHCR in 1954 outlines the latter's mandate to process all Refugee Status Determination (RSD) procedures, registration and documentation. 
  • A national Egyptian policy restricts UNHCR in registering Palestinian refugees arriving in Egypt. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East does not have a mandate in Egypt. Palestinian refugees therefore do not receive any UN assistance in the country. 


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