The International Observatory on Statelessness


More than 100 stateless persons in Egypt remain of concern to the UNHCR under a 1954 agreement (ratified in 1981) between the Egyptian government and the refugee agency. The agreement covers individuals of Russian, Armenian, Yugoslav, Albanian, Hungarian, Czech, Bulgarian, Polish, Romanian, and Estonian origins. Palestinians (estimated at 55,000-77,000) cannot obtain Egyptian nationality based on a 1959 agreement not to give Palestinians citizenship in order to preserve their national identity. Palestinian men who have left the country for jobs live abroad illegally and cannot return to Egypt because Egypt has closed the office that issues return visas. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency does not serve Palestinians in Egypt, as it does the Palestinians in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

A 2004 law provides that children born to Egyptian mothers can claim Egyptian citizenship. For children born after the law’s enactment, citizenship is immediate, but those born beforehand had to apply to the Interior Ministry in accordance with President Hosni Mubarak’s 2003 announcement to that effect. In 2005, RI reported that 400,000 to more than a million stateless children of mixed parentage resided in the country. One estimate suggests that at least 17,000 of these children may now have acquired a nationality. According to one source, the 2004 law has not been applied to children of Egyptian mothers and Palestinian fathers.

In December 2006, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court determined that the government could not recognize the Baha’i faith in official identification documents. Baha’is were therefore unable to obtain documents requiring a statement of religious affiliation, such as identity cards or certificates of birth or death. However, in January 2008, a lower administrative court held that Baha’is could leave religious affiliation questions blank, paving the way for restoration of their citizenship rights.