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Egyptian Coptic Christians fear death if deported.

Ottawa -- About 20 Egyptian Christians dealing with the threat of deportation from Canada are in danger of persecution, torture and quite possibly death, if they are returned to their homeland. This is because Canadian immigration authorities frequently fail to recognize Egyptian Coptic Christians as refugees. One claimant, who said he was beaten by a group of Muslim men because of his religion, was denied refugee status by a Muslim member of the Immigration and Refugee Board. He is appealing the ruling.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day says he has faith that Egypt will not mistreat such individuals when they return; the Egyptian ambassador to Canada says Coptic Christians are in no way persecuted, imprisoned or tortured because of their religion. Allegations to the contrary, the ambassador charges, are % total fabrication."

The latest U.S. State Department Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Egypt, however, cites numerous human rights abuses, particularly against non-Islamic religious minorities, and religious discrimination against Coptic Christians in particular. There is also widespread torture and abuse in Egyptian prisons.

A CTV News report (March 20) said Christians sent back to Egypt most certainly face detention, and possibly torture, when they arrive. It quoted one Egyptian-born Christian who said he knows of one man who "just disappeared" after arriving in Egypt following deportation from Canada. He estimated some 6,000 to 7,000 Christians are currently in jail in that country because of their faith.

Rev. Majel El Shafie told the National Post (January 4, 2006) that he was one of the Coptic Christians who "disappeared" in an Egyptian jail. "They change your name and documents. They torture you underground," he said. Another man seeking refugee status in Canada said he was stabbed in 1998 during a confrontation with a group, while a third said he was beaten in 1999. El Shafie called for an investigation of why the names of three particular Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board members consistently appear on rejected refugee claims.

The Washington Post (undated) reports that, although Egypt is officially a secular state, It is in many ways an Islamic entity in which non-Muslims are accommodated, but not on an equal footing. The constitution specifies that Islam is the official religion; Copts, Orthodox or Catholic, make up less than 10 per cent of the population. The independent Egyptian Organization for Human Rights says there is a growing tendency toward religious intolerance in Egypt. The Coptic persecution website ( lists 19 demands for equality in Egypt, noting that Copts have suffered centuries of discrimination and persecution.


Catholic Insight has written to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day and Immigration Minister Monte Solberg, asking them to ensure that refugee status be granted to Egyptian Coptic Christians in Canada. Please send your own letter to the Ministers and to your local MP.
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Title Annotation:Canada
Publication:Catholic Insight
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2006
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