Egypt is a destination country along the central Mediterranean refugee route with people arriving from both the Middle East and east Africa. A growing population of concern is stranded in the most overcrowded and poorest neighbourhoods of its largest cities such as Cairo and Alexandria as a result of an upward trend of new arrivals and tightened control measures aimed at curbing irregular outflows towards Europe.
Of the more than 235 000 refugees registered by the UNHCR, over 131 000 are from Syria and the remainder are from East Africa or Iraq.
Egypt continues to see a steady increase of refugees and migrants. Almost 20 000 were registered in 2018 (between January and August), over 30% of them Syrians.
Newly-arrived refugees and asylum seekers mix with an urban refugee population as well as with stranded migrants, and are heavily reliant on humanitarian assistance. Refugees reside in overcrowded and impoverished urban centres, where local communities already struggle with difficult living conditions, high unemployment rates and poor access to critical services such as healthcare and education.
This coincides with Egypt’s worst economic recession in decades, which has seen dramatic price hikes in food and utilities. In addition, refugees from African countries have no or limited access to formal education and suffer linguistic barriers and discrimination, further contributing to their marginalisation. According to a UN assessment, 90% of the Syrian refugee’s population is considered severely or highly vulnerable.
International humanitarian organisations face difficulties operating in Egypt due to lengthy registration procedures and increased scrutiny into civil society activities in the country. Only a handful of international non-governmental organisations are allowed to work in Egypt; the same applies to local NGOs/civil society organisations who face several restrictions.
In 2018, the European Commission provided €4 million in humanitarian aid funding in Egypt in close coordination with other EU financial instruments, notably the Regional Development and Protection Programme (RDPP), the EU-Africa Trust Fund, and the EU Regional Trust Fund for the Syria Crisis, i.e. the Madad Fund.
EU assistance targets Syrian refugees and the most vulnerable among other refugees groups and their hosting communities. The EU funds humanitarian projects that focus on three main priorities: protection, health, and education in emergency (EiE).
Given the upward trend for new arrivals and, amongst them, the sharp increase of unaccompanied and separated children (UASC), strengthening core protection activities for the most vulnerable remains the paramount objective.
While refugees in Egypt are legally entitled to access public health services, several structural causes (e.g. poor quality of services), calling for developmental investments, limit their capacity to benefit from them.
The European Commission's humanitarian aid efforts aim to facilitate access to emergency health services, particularly maternal and reproductive health, for those refugees without financial means to afford health fees as well as for victims of discrimination and marginalisation. The most vulnerable groups or individuals in the hosting communities may also benefit from these interventions.
In the area of education, the Commission's humanitarian aid funding intends to provide access to formal schooling and reduce related barriers for the most vulnerable refugee children. Barriers to education may be academic, financial, institutional or social and emotional, as well as any other obstacles children face as refugees. The support for educational activities focuses on primary and secondary school levels.
The EU also provides multipurpose cash assistance to address the basic expenditures of those most in need among the registered refugees through cash transfers. The value of the transfer is normally based on a minimum expenditure basket (MEB), while taking into account the contribution made by households, and available resources.