Monday, April 15, 2013

The evil of human trafficking in Sinai

It was in the Sinai desert that the nation of Israel received God's law. Consequently we tend to think of the Sinai as a place of law-giving. Today, however, under Egyptian control, the Sinai (particularly the north-east) is absolutely lawless -- a place of law-breaking. Not only has al-Qaeda established a presence, but Bedouin criminal gangs and human traffickers operate with impunity.
The Egyptian government knows that the clusters of concrete buildings dotting the Sinai desert are being used as torture chambers by human traffickers. The traffickers relay their victims' agony to family members
Eritrean Refugees in the Shagarab camp
or diaspora groups via mobile phone to facilitate payment of ransom. Even when ransom is paid it is not uncommon to find that victims are subsequently sold on to other traffickers who repeat the process. Failure to pay will result in death by torture, including through the extraction of saleable organs. New York Times (NYT) estimates that some 7,000 refugees have been abused this way in the past four years and that 4,000 of them may have died.The victims, mostly Eritrean (99 per cent), Somali and Sudanese refugees, include many Christians who have fled persecution in their homelands. Most of the victims have been kidnapped from the Shagarab refugee camps in eastern Sudan, home to tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees, and then transferred to the Sinai where they are sold to criminals. Eritrean opposition groups are demanding that Sudan improve security at the camps.
Chairman of the Ethiopia-based Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), Tewelde Gebresilase, says human trafficking is carried out by a highly organised network that stretches from Eritrea to the refugee camps in Sudan and to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. It is a highly lucrative business, not only for the Bedouin, but for the Eritrean, Sudanese and Egyptian offici als who are involved either directly or indirectly through taking bribes. According to intelligence sources, it is a major form of revenue for the corrupt and wicked regime ruling Eritrea.
On 1 April Amnesty International (AI) released a report entitled 'EGYPT/SUDAN: refugees and asylum seekers face brutal treatment, kidnapping for ransom, and human trafficking'. (Index: AFR 04/001/2013). AI is appealing that Egypt and Sudan should 'make urgent and concerted efforts to stop asylum-seekers and refugees being kidnapped from camps in Sudan, forcibly transported to Egypt, and being severely abused in the Sinai desert'. Reporting on a typical case, AI writes, 'On 22 January 2013, two Eritrean women living in the Shagarab camps set out to go to church, but did not arrive at their destination. Camp residents believe they were kidnapped.'


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