Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt, including many survivors of torture at the hands of the extortionists in Sinai, have commonly been detained in harsh conditions within police prisons in Sinai and elsewhere in Egypt. They are not released unless they can produce an airplane ticket out of the country, which is problematic both as to cost and as to identifying a country that is willing to receive them. In the last several years they have been able to avoid all of that, and to work in the informal Egyptian economy, if they have registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees before being arrested as irregular migrants. But otherwise, their circumstances in Egypt — whether they intend to reside there or instead intend to migrate across the Mediterranean to Europe — are perilous
The operations of foreign and domestic human rights NGOs are severely restricted in Egypt; and journalists as well as human rights activists are frequently imprisoned or killed. Thus monitoring, intervention and commentary with respect to the Eritrean refugees there is challenging. During the current period of authoritarian governance and of acute civil strife over fundamental issues of democracy, pluralism, security and economic well-being, no widespread popular or governmental movement to protect the rights or security of sub-Saharan refugees and asylum seekers in Egypt is apparent.
As of December 2016, the Egyptian government was aggressively intercepting and detaining smugglers, traffickers, migrants and refugees who sought to cross the Mediterranean toward Europe.
During the years that Eritreans were seeking to cross the border from Sinai to Israel, Egyptian police would often shoot and kill them there.