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UNHCR urges critical support for refugees in Egypt

March 2nd 2019

Support for refugees in Egypt is under severe pressure due to increased arrivals and inadequate resources, warned UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, on February 28.

Ongoing conflicts in Yemen and in Sub-Saharan Africa have forced more people to flee to Egypt. Over the past two years the number of registered refugees and asylum seekers has increased by 24 per cent.

Meanwhile, current refugee programmes in Egypt which are meant to assist and protect a quarter of a million refugees, more than half of whom are Syrian with others from Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan and Yemen, are just four per cent funded.

The surge in the refugee population coupled with funding shortfalls are leaving many refugees without critical support and protection.

“I am deeply troubled by the fact that eight out of 10 refugees in Egypt are living in desperate humanitarian conditions” said the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. “Yet, right now we are unable to provide them with the bare essentials or maintain our core refugee protection programmes in this country”.

Two months into 2019, UNHCR is operating with only a fraction of its annual USD104.2 million budget to support and protect refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt.

Despite Egypt’s hospitality and support to refugees, including through the provision of free education and access to health care on an equal footing with Egyptians, many refugees struggle to feed their families, to send their children to school and to keep themselves sheltered. Many are rapidly sinking into debt and poverty, forcing them to resort to most desperate measures to survive, including child labour, early marriages, or are being forced to turn to the streets.

UNHCR is particularly concerned about the ability to sustain its protection programs for refugee children – especially those separated from their families. Forty per cent of refugees in Egypt are children.