Center for Migration and Refugee Studies

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Working Paper Series

Publication Date



The research examines international legal standards on the protection and care of separated child refugees, and compares them with the experiences of such children living in Cairo. Egypt is party to four major international and regional human rights instruments relevant to the situation of separated refugee children: the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Organization of African Unity Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, and the African Charter on the Welfare and the Rights of the Child. Since 1954 the Egyptian government has delegated responsibility for both adult and child refugees to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Regional Office in Cairo. UNHCR-Cairo carries out refugee status determination assessments, provides humanitarian assistance and is involved in facilitating resettlement of refugees to third countries. Contrary to the provisions of the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Egyptian state-sponsored programs for children exclude non-Egyptian children. Since the programs of UNICEF’s Regional Office in Cairo also target only Egyptian children, UNHCR-Cairo is the only authority in Egypt which acts on behalf of refugee children in general and separated refugee children in particular. UNHCR-Cairo prioritizes the refugee status determination of refugees. Through its NGO implementing partners, UNHCR is also involved in providing some humanitarian assistance (subsidized health care, grants for primary education and, in some cases, foster care) for separated children who have been recognized as refugees. However, many recognized and asylum-seeking separated children still live in environments where they are at risk of abuse and exploitation. Like other refugee children, separated children have little access to education or free primary health care. The principle of the ‘best interests of the child’ and the right of the child to participate in decisions made on his or her behalf are major themes of the CRC. UNHCR-Cairo seeks to promote best interest considerations in refugee status determination procedures (RSD) and in decisions made about the refugee status of separated children. However, RSD procedures do not yet fully conform to standards set by the ‘best interests’ principle. Separated refugee children in Cairo rarely participate in decisions about refugee status, durable solutions, living arrangements or education at the individual or policy level. Egyptian NGO child protection agencies lack awareness of the situation of refugee adults and children and their rights. Increased co-operation between governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental refugee and child-care agencies in Cairo is necessary for the promotion of the rights of refugee children in general and separated refugee children in particular. The first part of this research examines international and Egyptian law on the protection and care of separated children, and describes the governmental, inter-governmental and non-governmental agencies mandated to care for such children in Egypt. The second part examines the situation of separated refugee children in Cairo: their living conditions, access to asylum procedures, health care, education, and their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation. The third part presents a summary of findings and recommendations to the Egyptian Government, UNHCR and the international and local NGO community in Egypt.

First Page


Last Page