Persecuted Christian Copt awarded refugee status

A Coptic Christian persecuted in Egypt and Libya for his religious beliefs is awarded refugee status, after the Refugee Appeals Board overturns its decision on appeal.

An Egyptian Coptic Christian is awarded refugee status after the Refugee Appeals Board upheld his arguments describing how, persecuted due to his religion, he was forced to flee his native country and come to Malta. The name of the refugee cannot be published by order of the Board.

The migrant was born to a Coptic Christian family in 15 December 1981 in the village of Tamya, in Egypt. In 2007, his father passed away from natural causes, while his mother and siblings are still living in the village. The refugee last saw his family 14 years ago, went he went to work in Libya as a carpenter.

While in Libya, together with Egyptian Christian colleagues, he used to speak to people about the differences between Christians and Muslims. However, unknown to him, a member of the Egyptian CID was working with him. The man reported the colleagues to the Egyptian authorities, who blacklisted the three of them.

During 2001, Egyptian police called at the appellant's family residence, asking for his whereabouts. His brother was also questioned.

At a later stage, a priest told the appellant that his two Christian colleagues were detained and imprisoned in Egypt and it was best for him not to return to Egypt for his own safety. He travelled to Libya were he worked for five years before arriving in Malta in 2005 with no visa. In his possession he had his Egyptian ID card, his passport and a letter exempting him from Egyptian military service while he was in Malta.

However appellant now fears returning to Egypt because his name is on the black list. Furthermore, he claims that the situation in his country is made worse for Christians living in Egypt who are persecuted over their beliefs.

On 4 January this year, the migrant's application for refugee status was rejected. He appealed the decision.

The Refugee Appeals Board, chaired by Joe Mifsud, considered the appellant's background, immigration history and evidence presented in the appeal.

The Board ruled that the migrant had not only suffered severe discrimination and persecution for being a Coptic Christian but had been sentenced in absentia to six years imprisonment for having preached a religion different to Islam. The Egyptian court ruled that converting persons from Islam to the Coptic Christian faith gave rise to conflict and problems in society.

An informant confirmed that the appellant is black listed and is currently wanted by the Egyptian CID. "If he returns to Egypt, he will be immediately arrested imprisoned indefinitely, tortured and killed like many others over the past five years", he said.

The Refugee Appeals Board upheld the appellant's appeal and concluded it was satisfied that the appellant is indeed a refugee in respect of whom Malta should have protection obligations.

The board was constituted of Chairman Joe Mifsud, Dr Claudio Zammit and Edmund Rizzo.