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Egypt to deport Sudanese migrants

Move follows deaths of 27

CAIRO -- More than half of the Sudanese migrants who were violently removed from a Cairo protest camp will be deported by ship to their homeland, Egyptian authorities said yesterday.

Human rights groups have condemned the operation last week, in which at least 27 people were killed.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed surprise about the deportation order, and demanded a clarification from Egyptian authorities.

''We were given assurances" that they would not deport them ''as of this point in time," said an HCR spokeswoman, Astrid van Genderen Stort.

But a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Fatma Zahraa Etman, said 654 Sudanese would be sent home because ''they were either found to be illegal immigrants or refugees who had violated security conditions."

Egyptian law bans demonstrations unless they are approved by the Interior Ministry.

A Cabinet official, Magdy Rady, said that those detained after the clearing of the square were held for ''vetting" to see who had a right to remain in Egypt and that it was the government's policy to deport those without valid documents.

The migrants do not want to return to Sudan. But the UN Human Rights Commission has ruled that many of them do not qualify for resettlement, because the war in southern Sudan has ended.

The crisis began on Sept. 29, when the migrants established a camp in a tiny Cairo park in an upscale neighborhood, to protest what they saw as a failure by the UN Human Rights Commission to help resettle them.

The issue arose before dawn on Friday, when police evicted more than 1,000 of them from the site.

Afterward, they were kept in detention camps in or near the Egyptian capital. Those not slated for deportation were released Monday.

The government has accused the migrants of refusing orders to leave the park.

The Interior Ministry has said just 12 of the Sudanese squatters were killed in the melee, in which police also doused the protesters with water cannons. The ministry claimed the victims died when they stampeded. It said more than 70 police were wounded.

Security officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters, have said, however, that the death toll was 25.

Yesterday, van Genderen Stort said morgue officials now report 27 dead.

''We are not blaming anyone," van Genderen Stort said. The police operation ''went as it went and it ended in a tragic way."

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