CAIRO - More than 170 Syrian and Palestinian refugees held since October in Egyptian police stations were released on Tuesday and granted temporary permits to stay in Egypt, a government spokesman said.
Egypt tightened its open-door visa policy for Syrians fleeing civil war soon after the army toppled Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in July. Arrests and deportations of refugees, some of whom had not formalized their stays, followed.
The refugees released on Tuesday had been trying to leave Egypt illegally by boat when authorities detained them.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said 171 of 206 Syrian and Palestinian "illegal immigrants" had been granted three-month visas, while the cases of the remaining 35 still in detention were under review.
Authorities have apprehended about 1,500 Syrian refugees in the last few months and about 1,200 of them have been "coerced to leave", according to Human Rights Watch.
Although courts had ordered the release of all 206 Syrians and Palestinians in detention, the authorities had previously said they were still being held for immigration violations.