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HRC40 – SR on Adequate Housing: MRG’s statement on forced displacement of minorities in Egypt

4 March 2019

UN Human Rights Council,

40th session

Interactive Dialogue – Special Rapporteur on the rights to adequate housing (item 3)

Thank you Mister President,

Madame Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing,

MRG welcomes the important findings and recommendations contained in your report on your recent visit to Egypt.

MRG and its partners in Egypt have been documenting for years the situation of minorities in the country, and the issues of forced displacement and denial of the right to return have been among the core challenges faced by hundreds of thousands of persons belonging to marginalized minorities in Egypt, including Nubians, Coptic Christians and Bedouin from Sinai.

MRG is concerned that the comments on this report from the Egyptian authorities fail to acknowledge that these situations of forced displacement are the result of state legislation, policies and practices that are discriminatory and violate the right to housing of these marginalized segments of the society, among other rights.

Indeed, for instance, the forced displacement of Christian populations is a consequence of the legal and administrative difficulties they face around the construction and renovation of churches. MRG has documented how this situation encourages mob violences and destruction of Christian churches and properties, arson and other abuses, largely met by passivity from the police and impunity for perpetrators.

The Nubian population, displaced from their ancestral land for decades, were promised resettlement in their territory and community-led development in the 2014 Constitution. Since then, the government has put the legislation on their return on hold and instead opened up swathes of their territory to investment.

Meanwhile, the long discriminated communities of North Sinai continue to contend with a brutal and indiscriminate counter-terrorism campaign that has destroyed thousands of buildings, displaced hundreds of thousands of predominantly Bedouin civilians and left many struggling with a growing humanitarian crisis.

Underlying these challenges is the issue of access to justice and the difficulties that members of minority communities in particular experience in securing the protection of their rights by the police and the judiciary.

If Egypt is to realize its stated ambition of reform and inclusion, it must take meaningful action to remedy these problems by addressing their root causes. These forced evictions are the result of discriminatory legislations and state policies and practices. They must be urgently reformed.

I thank you.