Cairo - Egypt detained more than 1 500 refugees from Syria,
including Palestinians and 250 children, before forcing most to leave the
country, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Monday.
The New York-based watchdog said the refugees were detained
for weeks and even months, and that some of the children were only two months
HRW said that most of the refugees who were arrested had
been trying to "migrate to Europe on smugglers' boat".
Palestinians fleeing war-hit Syria were especially targeted,
It accused Egyptian authorities of preventing them
"from seeking protection" from the UN refugee agency UNHCR and
telling them to leave or face "indefinite detention".
"Egyptian authorities tell detained Palestinians that
their only alternative to indefinite detention is to go to Lebanon, where they
are only permitted to legally enter on a 48-hour transit visa, or to return to
war-torn Syria," it said.
"Egypt is leaving hundreds of Palestinians from Syria
with no protection from Syria's killing fields except indefinite detention in
miserable conditions," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa
"Egypt should immediately release those being held and
allow UNHCR to give them the protection they are due under international
HRW says some 300 refugees from Syria, almost two thirds of
them Palestinians, are still behind bars and demanded that Egypt hold
accountable the security officials who ordered their detention.
The Egyptian government says some 300 000 Syrian refugees
are in the country, and 5 000-6 000 Palestinian refugees from Syria have also
sought refuge according to UN figures.
Egypt has cracked down on refugees following the July ouster
by the military of president Mohamed Morsi, amid media accusations they
supported the Islamist leader.
In October Cairo authorities denied it was mistreating
Syrian refugees after Amnesty International accused Egypt of unlawfully
detaining and deporting hundreds of them.