“Handcuffed like dangerous criminals”: Arbitrary detention and forced returns of Sudanese refugees in Egypt

Since September 2023, Egypt’s Border Guard Forces and police have carried out mass arbitrary arrests of Sudanese people who fled the ongoing armed conflict in Sudan for irregularly entering or staying in Egypt. Women, men and children are being held in cruel and inhuman conditions, including in warehouses or horse stables, pending their forced return to Sudan without giving them the opportunity to claim asylum or to challenge their deportation.

Amnesty International’s report, “Handcuffed like dangerous criminals”: Arbitrary detention and forced returns of Sudanese refugees in Egypt, is based on interviews with detained refugees, their relatives, community leaders, lawyers and a medical professional; as well as a review of official statements, documents and audiovisual evidence.

With the conflict in Sudan continuing, tens of thousands of undocumented Sudanese refugees in Egypt remain at risk of arbitrary arrest, detention in appalling conditions and forced return to Sudan. Despite Egypt’s abysmal human rights record including violations against refugees and migrants, the EU announced in March 2024 a strategic partnership agreement with Egypt, involving a €7.4 billion (approximately $14 billion AUD) aid and investment package that seeks, among other things, to deepen cooperation over migration and border control.

Egyptian authorities must immediately stop all forced returns of Sudanese nationals, and facilitate the safe and dignified passage of people fleeing conflict in Sudan. The EU must ensure any engagement with Egypt on border control and migration includes human rights safeguards and follows rigorous human rights risk assessments on the human rights impact of agreements.

The dire situation that many Sudanese people are being forced to survive is not inevitable. There are things the international community can do to ensure that civilians are protected and do not continue to bear the brunt of this conflict. But we need your help to make it happen.