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 Peter Macdiarmid via Getty Images

2nd July 2024, 22:20:49 UTC

In a statement today, Amnesty Ireland has said it is appalled that the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, intends to place Egypt on Ireland’s list of ‘safe countries of origin’.
This categorisation is particularly shocking, given the protracted human rights and impunity crisis in Egypt, where thousands are arbitrarily detained, and where Amnesty International has consistently documented the use of torture and other ill-treatment and enforced disappearances.
Egypt Researcher at Amnesty International, Mahmoud Shalaby said, “Since 2013, the Egyptian authorities have been severely repressing the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly and clamping down on critical voices offline and online. Dissidents in the country remain at risk of persecution solely for expressing critical views.
“Thousands of people including human rights defenders, journalists, protesters, and opposition politicians remain arbitrarily detained solely for exercising their human rights or after grossly unfair trials or without legal basis. Amnesty International has also consistently documented the Egyptian security forces’ use of torture and other ill-treatment of detainees in Egypt’s prisons, police stations and facilities controlled by National Security Agency. Methods of torture consistently reported by victims and witnesses include beatings, electric shocks, suspension by the limbs, indefinite solitary confinement, sexual abuse, beatings, deliberate denial of healthcare and indefinite solitary confinement in inhumane conditions.”
As a matter of principle, Amnesty International opposes the concept of ‘safe countries of origin’, as it discriminates asylum seekers on the grounds of nationality. It also undermines their right to a fair and effective asylum procedure, where the asylum seekers’ personal circumstances are assessed. No country is safe for everyone. But, putting Egypt with its abysmal human rights record on such a list is deeply reckless. Under Irish and EU law, the Minister for Justice may do so only if there is generally no persecution, torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment in that state. That absolutely cannot be said of Egypt.
Asylum seekers from countries designated “safe’ may still apply for protection in Ireland, but through an accelerated process where they will have to rebut the presumption they come from a “safe country” It also limits the time they have to get legal advice and support. Ultimately, if authorities consider Egypt as a safe country, they will place people at higher risk of being returned to persecution, torture and other human rights violations, in breach of the principle of non-refoulement.