There have been 554 cases of politically motivated banned entry and travel bans imposed by Egyptian authorities in airports since February 11, 2011, according to the independent information platform Daftar Ahwal.
These were all reportedly related to individuals’ work in politics, human rights, journalism, the cultural sphere, social movements and religious activity.
Under the governance of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), there were 36 cases of travel and entry bans, and a further 21 under former President Mohamed Morsi. However, under interim President Adly Mansour and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, there were 279 and 218 cases respectively.
Daftar Ahwal’s investigation found that 274 Egyptians were among those either denied entry or permission to travel, as well as 81 Arabs and 199 foreigners. Out of those examined, 56 travel bans were issued pending a judicial order and later arrest, while 12 individuals were banned from travel based on a judicial order but no arrest. 120 people were banned from traveling with no judicial order issued at all. There were also 259 entry bans, 83 cases of reported difficulty on arrival and 15 cases of arrest upon entry.
Several reports of travel bans on human rights activists, journalists and academics have been highlighted in recent months, with international human rights organizations condemning the practice.
In a joint statement, Amnesty International, EuroMed Rights, Front Line Defenders, Human Rights Watch, IFEX, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, People In Need and Solidar firmly condemned the “increasingly routine imposition of arbitrary travel bans,” in a statement, which read, “[the practice] appears to be only aimed at undermining their legitimate and peaceful activities in defense of human rights and democracy.”
Human rights defender and Mada Masr contributor Hossam Bahgat was placed on a list of individuals barred from traveling in late February. Similarly, lawyer and director of the Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) Gamal Eid was also banned from travel in early February.
Journalist and researcher Ismail Alexandrani was arrested upon arrival at Hurghada International Airport in November by National Security Forces, and faces charges of belonging to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood group and disseminating false information.
According to Daftar Ahwal’s report, the majority of those denied entry or travel under Mansour were politically active — this was the case for 135 individuals, compared to 94 cases under Sisi, including 38 human rights activists.
Lawyer at the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, Sameh Samir, told Mada Masr previously that the Penal Code stipulates two cases in which a citizen can be denied their constitutional right to freedom of movement: when a court issues a final decision banning a citizen from travel, or if the prosecutor general issues a travel ban to prevent a citizen under investigation from leaving the country until the investigation is complete.
There are no other cases in which it is legal for security officials to prevent citizens from leaving the country, according to Samir. In a majority of the travel ban cases, individuals were banned without judicial orders, or were never notified of an official investigation against them.
The Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression (AFTE) released a report in early February, claiming that many of those who were denied entry to Egypt were academics who expressed views considered contrary to those of the government. Among them were Egyptian-German researcher Atef Botros, prominent Tunisian writer and academic Amel Grami and American researcher and former diplomat Michele Dunne.