17 June 2008Staff members from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have met with a number of asylum-seekers in Egyptian detention centres following the Government’s decision to allow the agency unhindered access to determine their status. In February, authorities in Egypt had suspended access of UNHCR protection staff to asylum seekers in detention. Since then, the agency had been requesting access for their protection staff to evaluate the situation of those detained.UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis told reporters in Geneva that staff from the agency had arrived in Aswan on Sunday night to prepare for UNHCR teams to carry out interviews and individual assessments of asylum-seekers in detention centres, particularly Eritrean nationals. “Egypt has seen a surge of Eritreans entering the country illegally in recent months by land from Sudan or directly from Eritrea via the Red Sea,” Ms. Pagonis noted.On Monday, the team visited two locations in Aswan in Shalal and Nasr ElNouba areas where they met some of the asylum-seekers. “The teams reported they saw close to 180 asylum-seekers, including a group of 40 Ethiopians,” reported Ms. Pagonis.She added that a similar preparatory team will proceed to Hurghada today to prepare the ground for the deployment of more teams. “We also plan to send UNHCR teams to other locations in Egypt where reportedly asylum-seekers are in detention. “In the coming days we will be discussing and reviewing the operational details with our governmental counterparts and proceed with the determination of the status of the concerned group,” she said.