Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly chaired on 8 January 2024 a meeting to review and the contributions shouldered by the government and the State towards refugees from various nationalities hosted by Egypt. The Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population has placed the number of refugees in Egypt at some 9 million
Attending the meeting were senior officials from authorities concerned with refugees in Egypt. The list included the ministers of supply, health, social solidarity, local development, education, labour, as well as representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs and finance.
PM Madbouly explained that it was very important to have an accurate account of the services offered to Egypt’s refugee guests, also the sums spent in this regard. Persons who take refuge in Egypt are not treated as strictly “refugees” or relegated to refugee camps, but are allowed to reside in the country and are offered services to the public on equal footing with Egyptians.
During the cabinet meeting, a report by the Minister of Interior was reviewed; it said that all foreigners residing or working in Egypt have been asked to take official procedures to obtain or update their official residency permits as of January 2024.
Minister of Local Development, Major General Hesham Amna confirmed that the numbers of refugees and their populations in various Egyptian governorates are being monitored, as well as the work they do and the services they benefit from. But Hassan Shehata, Minister of Labour, said that the numbers of those who obtained official work permits were far too less than the official numbers of working-age refugees, meaning that many do not have fully legal status.
Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar, Minister of Health and Population, started by citing the official figures: Egypt is currently home to some 9 million refugees who come from 133 countries, he said, representing 8.7 per cent of the Egyptian population. The average age among the refugees is 35; slightly more than half them are males,. More than half the refugees in Egypt live in Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Daqahliya and Dumyatt. Some 60 per cent have been living in Egypt for the last 10 years, whereas 6 per cent have integrated well in the Egyptian community throughout more than 15 years; 37 per cent have stable jobs.
As of 31 December 2023, the refugee population in Egypt registered with UNHCR comprised 207,833 Sudanese, 153,756 Syrians, 37,915 South Sudanese, 32,175 Eritreans, 17,516 Ethiopians, 8,447 Yemenis, 7,373 Somalis, 5,562 Iraqis, and refugees of more than 54 other nationalities.
Dr Abdel-Ghaffar alluded to the International Organisation for Migration’s August 2022 report which read: “Egypt has been generous in including migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers in the education and health national systems, including on equal footing with Egyptians in many instances and this, despite the challenges these two sectors are facing and the high economic costs. The inclusion of migrants’ population in the national COVID-19 vaccination plan is a clear recent example on the Government of Egypt approach in treating migrants, as equal as Egyptian citizens”.
The Minister of Health also talked about the estimated cost of health services provided to immigrants and refugees in Egypt, as well as the cost of supporting the health infrastructure necessary to provide them with medical services.
As regards the educational services for refugees, Minister of Education and Technical Education, Reda Hegazy, reviewed a report which declared that there had been a rise in the number of refugees entering Egypt throughout the past year [especially in view of violent conflict in countries neighbouring Egypt, such as Sudan]. This, he said, placed an added burden on Egypt’s education system. He said new classes needed to be built to absorb the leap in the number of refugee students.
On another front, Minister of Supply and Internal Trading, Ali al-Moseilhi discussed the burden shouldered by his Ministry to provide the needs of millions of refugees for basic and other goods. Minister of Social Solidarity, Nivine El Kabbag reviewed the efforts made by civil society organisations to provide for refugees in Egypt, whether in terms of providing food, health services, or educational needs.
On another equally important note, the Cabinet reviewed the amount of funds directed by the Egyptian State to aid the Palestinians in Gaza, in light of the ongoing war. These services range from providing various forms of humanitarian aid, to offering health services, and moving the injured into Egypt for treatment.
9 January 2024