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Warning: Gay men can be deported from Egypt, court rules

‘I keep a bag packed,’ says human rights activist in Cairo

An Egyptian court has upheld the deportation of a Libyan man accused of homosexuality. Credit: Daily Xtra

The Egyptian administrative court in Cairo rejected an appeal by a Libyan man to re-enter the country April 12, after the man was accused of homosexuality, arrested and deported in 2008.

The defendant, a student at the Arab Academy for Science, Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria, entered Egypt in 2006 on a tourist visa. He was arrested after his neighbours reported him to local authorities in October 2008. The Interior Ministry, in coordination with the Libyan Consulate in Cairo, deported the man to Libya.

According to local news outlets, the man argued that the decision thwarted his education in Egypt, but the administrative court upheld the decision to deport him, stating it falls within the ministry’s jurisdiction. The court went on to say that the move safeguarded morality and religious values in Egypt.

“The regime has been whipping up xenophobia since it took power,” Scott Long, a long-time human rights activist living in Cairo, tells Daily Xtra. “[It] has publicly considered imposing a new and restrictive visa regime on everybody.”

Earlier this year, Egypt announced plans to replace its visa-on-arrival policy for tourists with a more elaborate visa process. Previously, it also complicated its visa requirements for Syrians and Palestinians, effectively banning both nationalities from entering the country.

Long sees this new court order as a further step in the crackdown on LGBT people in Cairo. “In any case, I keep a bag packed,” he adds.

A judicial official told The New York Times that the ministry has the right to issue bans in such cases on grounds of protecting public interest, religious and social values.

“Since it took power, this regime has been manipulating both homophobia and xenophobia, and it seems to have found a point where the two meet,” Long told The Guardian on April 15.

Reports of LGBT foreigners’ deportations from Egypt have been periodic in the past. Such deportations represent only a fraction of the Egyptian regime’s crackdown on gay people in the country.

More than 150 men have been arrested in Egypt on charges related to homosexuality since 2013. One bathhouse raid, instigated by an Egyptian reporter, saw 27 men rounded up last December and paraded naked to nearby police cars. One of the men later set himself on fire.

Though Long says most gay people who get deported face some consequences, he fears some could face worse consequences, depending where they’re sent. “A gay Syrian deported home, or a Palestinian sent back into statelessness, will face much direr consequences than a European who simply has to cut short a vacation,” he says.

If a gay man is deported back to Syria, he faces three years in prison.

Bassel Mcleash is a Syrian gay man who has been living in Cairo since mid-2012. Fleeing the war in his homeland, Mcleash found refuge in Egypt. If he were deported back to Syria, he would be forced to join the Syrian regime’s mandatory military service.

“This court order affects us all,” he tells Daily Xtra in a Facebook chat. “There are people from South Sudan, Libya and Yemen that are now all in the same situation.”

Following a police raid on his house late last year, Mcleash changed his address, fearing that Egyptian authorities might target him based on his sexuality, as well as his HIV-positive status.

“It was clear [to the raiding squad] that I was a gay guy,” he says.

Mcleash hopes to leave Egypt on his own terms, to a place where he can be accepted for who he is. “It’s becoming more and more impossible to live here,” he says.