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Egypt systematically refusing to provide or renew ID for dissidents, says HRW

The Egyptian authorities’ systematic refusal to provide or renew identity documents for dissidents, journalists and human rights activists aims to pressure them to return to “near-certain persecution”, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said.

Egypt regularly refuses to issue official papers or renew documents including passports and birth certificates to people living abroad, which has undermined Egyptians’ ability to travel, live, work legally and access medical care and education.

“The government of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has been turning the screws on dissidents abroad by depriving them of essential identity documents,” said Adam Coogle, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW.

“After sparing no effort to crush domestic opposition and public dissent through mass arrests, unfair trials, and rampant torture in detention, the government is ramping up efforts to punish and silence those abroad.”

Egyptians in Turkiye have struggled because Egypt considers it the centre of the opposition abroad. Egyptians in Turkiye must fill out extra legal forms to get official documentation, including giving private details as to why they left and giving links to their social media accounts.

They are then told that all applications must be approved by security agencies in Egypt before they are filed as well as being threatened and intimidated by Egyptian officials there.

Dissidents have said that embassies also refuse to issue a power of attorney so lawyers in Egypt are not able to act on their behalf.

In September 2020 human rights activist and former political prisoner Amr Hashad told MEMO that when he went to the Egyptian consulate in Istanbul to ask for power of attorney he was asked to hand over his passport.

Afraid to go inside, Amr spoke to the consul via telephone. The consul accused him of forging his passport and then asked him if he had any political charges against him in Egypt.

After learning that Amr’s friend had videoed him handing over his passport, a member of staff eventually threw his passport over the fence of the consulate.

Without the correct documentation Egyptians abroad have been unable to complete residency permits, get married, get their children vaccinated and access public healthcare. Others have been arrested and interrogated at checkpoints in Turkiye.

Between nine and 14 million Egyptians live abroad, tens of thousands of these are in exile to escape human rights abuses such as torture, arbitrary detention and forcible disappearance.

A mixture of the difficulty in obtaining official documentation and a rise in racism in Turkiye has pushed Egyptians living there to find ways to leave, including irregular migration to Europe to seek asylum or paying large bribes to embassy staff.

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