Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Egypt: Human Trafficking in Sinai


Walking in the Sinai desert. Photograph by Fr.Bessonnet.

Many refugees, mostly from Eritrea, are being kidnapped and held hostage by criminal networks working in the largely lawless Sinai Peninsula.

By Yohannes Woldemariam | ThinkAfricaPress

Since around 2006, the Sinai Peninsula in eastern Egypt, bordering Israel, has been the site of what the UN has referred to as one of the most unreported humanitarian crises in the world. Criminal gangs operate through complex networks with impunity, and the region has been seen several cases of serious human rights violations, torture and human trafficking.

Operating in a largely lawless wilderness, gangs take refugees who are fleeing northwards towards Egypt and Israel hostage and demand ransoms for their release. The hostages are often tortured and some are killed. Meanwhile, many accuse the Egyptian and Israeli governments of not doing enough to combat the problem and of contravening their legal obligations towards refugees.

Escaping the Horn

Most of the victims of human trafficking and kidnapping in the region are from Eritrea. Thousands reportedly escape the repressive regime of Isaias Afewerki each year, some ending up in Ethiopia but more tending to find themselves in refugee camps in eastern Sudan. Eastern Sudan’s Shagarab camp, for example, reportedly houses nearly 30,000 refugees.

But the likes of Shagarab are often unsafe and some refugees do not stick around for long. Many put their lives in the hands of people-smugglers promising safe passage to Israel or Egypt, but instead are kidnapped and held hostage.

Those believed to be responsible for most of these kidnappings are groups of Rashaida tribesmen, mostly located in Eritrea and north-eastern Sudan. However, these gangs are usually assisted by intermediaries inside camps, and allegedly even the Sudanese military, especially those at border checkpoints. Later on, criminal elements within the Bedouin community ‘buy’ hostages from the Rashaida, transporting them to Sinai and subjecting them to torture, forced marriage, rape or bonded labour.

Many former victims have recounted horrific tales of being held for months and repeatedly raped, of having plastic melted over their back and legs, and of being electrocuted and burned. Many have died at the hands of their tormentors… Read more

This post originally appeared on ThinkAfricaPress