Report details plight of Syrians traveling through Egypt to reach Europe
Refugees - AP
By GHADA ATEF

CAIRO: A number of Syrians have been arrested in Egypt while trying to illegally travel to Europe, said a Tuesday press statement issued by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights.

The organization conducted interviews with a series of Syrians who were arrested in Egypt while, some of whom were attempting to travel on to Europe.

EIPR interviewed Abdul Ghany, a 57-year old Syrian man who is a trader from Ghouta, about his former life. He used to own a large house and store in his hometown.

“The missile turned the house to dust,” Ghany told EIPR. He said that 16 months ago his family lost their house and decided to leave Syria for Egypt in order to escape the violence.

On Aug. 21, 2013, a chemical attack targeted Ghouta, which resulted in hundreds of deaths. Ghany responded that he is very happy that his family came to Egypt before the attack, but he asked “and then what?”

EIPR said he thought being out of Syria would be a temporary issue and that his family would return, but after the conflict spread all over Syria returning home has proved to be a difficult task.

“Ghany, as every Syrian in Egypt, has a residents permit with a ‘Not allowed to work’ seal between three months and year,” said the EIPR statement.

Despite this, Ghany tried to apply for a job to help with his children’s expense, but he never found one. EIPR said that in September 2013, he decided to travel illegally by boat to Italy and then to Sweden. He said “some people told us that once we reach a European country, everything is going to be easier.”

According to EIPR, his attempt to travel to Europe failed, and Ghany was arrested along with everyone else on the boat. Ghany spent a month in detention at Oreen police station before the authorities released him.

“My luck is much better than others, some were forced to leave Egypt and others drowned during the attempt,” Ghany said.

EIPR said that more than 1,500 Syrians and Palestinians who have Syrian papers were arrested in Egypt between Aug. 2013 and Jan. 2014. The periods of detention ranged between a couple of days to up to four months.

Egyptian authorities forced 17 Syrians to leave Egypt and return back to Syria after they were released from detention. More than 280 refugees were also forced to leave Lebanon, Turkey or Malaysia after being released from detention. In October 2013, 12 Syrian refugees died in Alexandria after their boat sank during an attempt to flee to Europe.

EIPR declared that the interviews do not seek to make a judgment on the arrests, and that the organization only wants to highlight the stories of Syrians fleeing their war-torn country.

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