HRW accuses Egypt of mass arrests of foreigners

Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- Hundreds of foreigners, including refugees and asylum seekers, were beaten and jailed during two nights of "racially-motivated arrests in Cairo," New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has charged.
It said during the raids, 28-29 January, plainclothes policemen and security forces entered homes without showing either identification or warrants, and arrested foreigners, predominantly people of sub-Saharan African origin.
Other foreigners were arrested while walking down the street, and were prevented from returning home to collect identity papers, HRW said, adding: "still others were beaten during the arrests and sustained injuries as a result.
" The rights group said individuals carrying blue identification cards issued by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were arrested alongside undocumented foreigners, and quoted some refugees as saying "police repeatedly told them the UNHCR cards were useless.
" "These are refugees who have permission to be in Egypt, and there's no reason for police to be arresting them.
And there's no reason for the police to beat people they arrest, under any circumstances," said Alison Parker, Refugee Protection expert at Human Rights Watch.
HRW said the raids were also discriminatory.
"The raids in Cairo are doubly reprehensible, for targeting refugees - vulnerable people who should be protected, not punished - and for targeting people solely on the basis of the colour of their skin," Parker said.
Early on January 29, UNHCR staff, "after arguing with police at al-Maadi station for much of the night, finally secured the release of a few dozen detainees with refugee status.
A number of other detainees have since been freed, but an undetermined number may still be held," HRW said.
It described "the recent raid (as) the latest example of human rights violations perpetrated by Egyptian police against refugees and asylum-seekers.
Raids also took place on December 2-3, 2002 and earlier in January, during which people were harassed, beaten, arbitrarily arrested and detained.
" The rights group said "the threat of arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and racially-based harassment continues to hang over many asylum-seekers and refugees in Egypt.
" It quoted one Nigerian asylum-seeker, who said: "The police and people here (Egypt) do not believe in human rights.
And they do not even seem to believe that black people are human.
" HRW urged the Egyptian government to "immediately cease the racial targeting and arbitrary arrests and detention of refugees and asylum seekers, and called on Egyptian law enforcement personnel to respect documents issued by UNHCR.
" It also called on UNHCR to consider issuing temporary "asylum seeker" documents in order to prevent arbitrary arrests of people whose cases are not yet resolved.

11 february 2003 17:22:00




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