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The ICRC in Egypt

15-03-2012 Overview

The ICRC’s long-established delegation in Egypt builds on the country’s unique position in the Arab world to promote respect for international humanitarian law and its national implementation in the 22 member countries of the League of Arab States. The delegation also has an operational role: in 2011, for example working with the Egyptian Red Crescent to assist people uprooted by the conflict in Libya and restore links between separated families and providing first aid to people injured in the demonstrations and clashes within Egypt itself.

The ICRC has been in Egypt, with some interruptions, since the beginning of the Second World War and throughout the conflicts that occurred in the region since then. Its primary role is to serve as a regional centre to promote the national implementation of international humanitarian law and its incorporation into military training and academic curricula in Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world.
During the 2011 crisis in Libya, over 450,000 people fled towards Egypt to escape the violence. The ICRC responded immediately by establishing an operational structure in the town of Salloum, near the border. Working in close cooperation with the Egyptian Red Crescent it ensured vital assistance for people stranded at the border, providing food and re-establishing family links. It also facilitated contacts with relevant embassies or consulates to obtain necessary travel documents.

After the situation at the border settled down, the ICRC decided gradually to scale down its activities there and the Salloum office was finally closed in December 2011. However, the ICRC continues to provide tracing services through regular visits by the Cairo-based tracing team, and through its cooperation with the Egyptian Red Crescent teams in Salloum.

The ICRC also helps refugees and asylum-seekers in Cairo and elsewhere in Egypt to restore and maintain links with their families, while paying particular attention to the fate of unaccompanied minors. Tracing services are also offered to help Egyptians and their relatives in conflict zones abroad – including people detained – to keep in touch. Some migrants are issued with ICRC documents enabling them to travel to a new life elsewhere, once they have been granted refugee status.

The ICRC – in close coordination with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies – provides support to the Egyptian Red Crescent Society (ERC) and has helped it establish a contingency plan for possible emergencies at the frontier with the Gaza Strip.

On the basis of experience gained during the civil unrest that started on 25 January 2011, the ICRC assisted the ERC to train and equip ten Emergency Action Teams. Since October 2011, the teams were regularly deployed and provided first aid to hundreds of people injured in the demonstrations and clashes that occurred in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Cairo.  The programme is being expanded in 2012 to cover Red Crescent branches outside the capital.

An important part of the ICRC delegation’s role is to explain its activities in the region, as well as the basics of international humanitarian law (IHL). To help achieve this aim, the ICRC signed an agreement in 2012 with the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate, in order to train Egyptian journalists in first aid and provide them with a general overview of the principles of IHL and the International RC/RC Movement.
The ICRC also offers IHL training to members of the armed forces, the police and the judiciary.

Discussions continue with senior Egyptian officials on the ICRC’s offer to visit people deprived of their freedom.

In the region

The ICRC’s Cairo-based regional legal advisory service works closely with the League of Arab States to promote IHL and its integration into national legislation. It organizes regional seminars and produces written and audiovisual materials explaining IHL and ICRC’s role in situations of violence and armed conflict.

The Communication Support Centre (CSC) in Cairo mainly ensures communication with regional and global media on issues related to IHL and the institution's activities in the zones where it operates. It provides IHL training sessions for journalists and senior media professionals in the Arab region; this aims to offer them basic knowledge of the law and of their rights and duties in the coverage of armed conflicts.

The CSC regularly publishes information about the ICRC and IHL on the ICRC’s Cairo-based Arabic website and in its Arabic-language publications.