Egypt’s Ahram Online confirmed that 276 Syrians were deported from Cairo International Airport within a few hours of their arrival in the country on Tuesday. A security source told Anadolu news agency that 200 were sent back to Syria and 76 others back to Beirut. The airport authorities had also refused entry to 189 Syrians the previous day.
Shortly before the arrival of the passengers from Damascus and Beirut, Egyptian authorities had “imposed new conditions for admission into the country,” Ahram Online reported.
Prior to the ouster of Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi, Syrian nationals enjoyed unconditional entry to Egypt, while entry visas and security permits are now mandatory. According to Lebanese news website Naharnet, Egypt foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty confirmed the change in Egypt’s travel restrictions towards Syrian nationals. He said that this is “only for a transitional period, due to the current situation.”
With approximately 176,000 refugees registered in Jordan and 200,000 in Lebanon, UNHCR verified the presence of 70,140 registered Syrian refugees in Egypt, according to Ahram Online. However, the actual number of Syrians seeking refuge in Egypt is believed to be much higher, since entry to the country was easy and unconditional until now.
Senior Syrian opposition figure Haitham Al-Maleh was only eventually allowed to enter Egypt, waiting for two hours in the airport before receiving official permission to enter the country from the Egyptian authorities.
According to the Associated Press, Maleh said: “We are surprised by the decision, especially because it comes from Egypt, which is a sister nation to Syria.”
Maleh is a member of the main opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and is based in Cairo. “I have been living in Egypt for two years,” AP reported him saying, “I have an apartment and I have a bank account in Egypt.”
The well-known SNC figure denounced the Egyptian decision, claiming that this “is a reward to Bashar Assad for all the Syrians he has killed.”
Anonymous Egyptian airport officials claimed the new measures followed reports that a large number of Syrians in Egypt were backing the Muslim Brotherhood and took part in violence following the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, according to AP. Responding to these claims, the SNC expressed regret regarding any crime committed by Syrian nationals in Egypt but stressed that all Syrians should not be penalized for individual acts.