Americans in Egypt are outraged at being detained by government officials without just cause or reason.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland issued the following statement: "We are urging the government of Egypt to lift these restrictions immediately and allow these folks to come home as soon as possible. We are trying to get them free to travel as soon as possible, and we're hopeful that we can resolve this in coming days."
The travel ban issued by prosecutor general, according to sources, has prevented six Americans from returning home. The six people work for non-governmental organizations promoting democracy and civil rights for Egyptians.
The ban comes after harassment directed at the NGOs by Egyptian officials.
Egyptian security forces raided 17 NGO offices on Dec. 29, leading to harsh criticism by the U.S. The State Department condemned the raids and requested that the government "immediately end the harassment of NGO staff, return all property and resolve this issue immediately."
Senator John McCain has also spoken out about the treatment of Americans in Egypt, saying, "I call on the Egyptian government and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to cease the harassment and unwarranted investigations of American NGOs operating in Egypt."
Many worry that the U.S.'s relationship with Egypt is already frail, though the U.S. supplies Egypt with over $1 billion in aid annually. Political analyst Elijah Zarwan stated, "This will clearly strain an already tense relationship between Egypt military rulers and Washington."
An editorial published in The Washington Post stated, "The officials campaigning against U.S. groups and funding, such as International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga … are trying to preserve their own powers by demonizing liberal civil-society groups and the United States."
"There can be no motivation [for the travel ban] except for a desire to control and silence the human rights community," Heba Morayef of the Human Rights Watch in Cairo told reporters.