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Egyptian on hunger strike in Dutch prison after asylum rejection and pending deportation

Osama el-Waley is the second Egyptian to face deportation threat from the Netherlands in three weeks
Osama el-Walely, 28, is an engineering student at Ain Shams University, Egypt, but has been living in exile for several years fearing persecution in Egypt (supplied)
Osama el-Walely, 28, is an engineering student at Ain Shams University, Egypt, but has been living in exile for several years fearing persecution in Egypt (supplied)

"I fear being deported to Egypt and facing forced disappearance or execution," said Osama El-Walely in a voice call from inside his prison in the Netherlands to Middle East Eye.

El-Walely has been held by Dutch authorities since 12 December.

He had sought political asylum in the Netherlands but was rejected when the police arrested him and is preparing for deportation to Slovakia in a few days.

El-Walely, along with his legal advisor, expressed concerns about the possibility of his deportation to Egypt. 

The 28-year-old told MEE that he initiated an open-ended hunger strike on Thursday to prevent his deportation to Slovakia, the EU country  he initially obtained a visa for while in Turkey.

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His legal advisor has expressed concern about his health, especially given his deteriorating mental state since his detention due to deportation fears and the possibility of being handed over to Egyptian authorities.

El-Walely sought psychological consultations with prison mental health professionals multiple times during his three-day detention.

He submitted his asylum papers in June and was going for his weekly fingerprints with the authorities suddenly arrested him.

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When he asked for the reason, the police informed him of the deportation decision.

In a conversation with the police, he confirmed that he had not yet received a response to his asylum request. When El-Walely inquired further, the police told him that his asylum request had been rejected and that he was due for deportation on 19 December.

El-Walely, an engineering student at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, expressed his fears to MEE about being deported to Egypt, where he faces political charges and potential imprisonment. 

In one of the cases, El-Walely was sentenced to three years in prison and fined up to 100,000 Egyptian pounds ($3,233) related to his previous arrest at the university for protesting against the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

He was detained at the end of 2013 and spent several months in prison before being released on that case.

"Due to the security situation, I left Egypt and went to Sudan and then to Turkey,” he explained.

“I intended to settle there, but it coincided with Turkey deporting the Egyptian opposition figure Mohamed Abdelhafiz to Egypt [2019], and my passport was about to expire." 

El-Walely highlighted the Egyptian consulate in Istanbul's reluctance to renew passports for Egyptians there due to Turkey hosting several Egyptian political dissidents.

Dublin Regulation not applicable

In the face of these challenges, El-Walely decided that seeking political asylum in a European country was the solution. He managed to obtain a visa to Slovakia before his Egyptian passport expired.

Upon entering the European Union, he formally applied for political asylum in the Netherlands. He entered Austria and then moved to the Netherlands, bypassing Slovakia entirely.

'It is within our client's legal rights to submit a new asylum request outside the Dublin Regulation'

- Ayah al-Zu'bi, lawyer

El-Walely was not aware of the Dublin Regulation, which, under EU law, requires individuals to apply for asylum in the first EU country they enter. Despite this, Ayah al-Zu'bi, Osama's legal advisor, argues that this law does not apply to her client. 

Al-Zu'bi told MEE: "Legally, a tourist fingerprint cannot be considered an asylum fingerprint. Additionally, he did not enter Slovakia. Therefore, it is within our client's legal rights to submit a new asylum request outside the Dublin Regulation."

She also pointed out his right to be free in the country at the moment of submitting his asylum request.

The plan is to deport him to Slovakia by first deporting him to Austria and then to Slovakia, according to the information available to them so far.

Al-Zu'bi mentioned that the Dutch Immigration Service (Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst, IND), which is detaining her client, informed them that Slovakia has confirmed its willingness to receive his asylum file. 

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"We have no legal guarantee that he will not be handed over to Egyptian authorities while in Austria, and there is no legal guarantee confirming how Slovakia will handle his asylum file, or even that he will not be deported to Egypt."

Al-Zu'bi mentioned a similar case that occurred a few days ago, amplifying that concern.

Another Egyptian opposition figure referred to by the lawyer is Abdullah Mansour, who was deported on 27 November. IND deported him to Austria, and from there, he was deported to Egypt, where he was arrested by security authorities, and his fate is unknown.

The Egyptian human rights organisation, El-Shahab, had previously appealed, expressing concern about his safety before his deportation; however, the decision was made anyway.

MEE reached out to IND for comment regarding their awareness of the risks El-Walely may face if deported. The response stated that they could not provide information and suggested that only the lawyer could contact the IND to obtain information.

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