Egyptian authorities look the other way as Bedouin kidnap refugees


Horrific tales are emerging from Sinai of Bedouin gangs holding Israel-bound refugees to ransom

Hundreds of African refugees are being held hostage in the Sinai desert of Egypt by smugglers demanding up to $40,000 (£25,000) each for their release, human rights workers have warned.

A brutal trafficking industry has flourished over the past year in which Bedouin gangs, emboldened by their apparent impunity, extort higher and higher prices for kidnapped migrants.

Most of the hostages are Eritrean and Sudanese asylum seekers who paid $3,000 each to the gangs to get them to the Israeli border. Instead, they are subjected to daily torture as their captors phone their relatives at home and abroad demanding huge sums to spare their lives.

Asmerom (not his real name) receives 10 calls a day from a childhood friend, who is among 30 women and 12 men from Eritrea held in one Sinai camp. She contacts him because, unlike her family, he lives in Israel and might have access to money. She tells him they are being starved, beaten and burned with electric cables.

The 19-year-old’s captors initially demanded $40,000 for each of the 42 hostages but after three weeks, dropped the price to $30,000. The smugglers say Asmerom, 20, needs to get the money to their agent in Israel quickly or they will kill her.

“They call me when they are beating her. Her hands and feet are tied so they put the phone up to her mouth while she is screaming,” said Asmeron, clutching his phone in his hands. He looked aghast when it rings.

“I don’t understand them, they’re speaking Arabic. Listen, she keeps crying: ‘Help me, help me.’ What can I do?”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), an Israeli NGO, say Asmerom has little choice but to try to raise the money. PHR runs a clinic in Jaffa, south of Tel Aviv, offering medical care to asylum seekers and foreign workers who, without official status in Israel, are ineligible for anything but emergency healthcare.

Every year several thousand Africans, most of them from Eritrea and Sudan, try to get into Israel – something the Israelis are eager to halt.

Over the past 18 months, PHR has interviewed 900 people who have been tortured in the Sinai, and have traced a human trafficking network that extends to the refugee camps in Sudan and Eritrea. The NGO knows of at least 350 people being held now.

Its clinic in Jaffa is familiar with the injuries inflicted by these gangs. Torture methods include pouring hot plastic on victim’s body, electric shocks, rape – including penetration with objects – and branding with hot irons. If these methods fail to extort enough cash, survivors say the smugglers either kill their hostages or sell their organs.

“We have heard of mass graves of hundreds of people,” said Shahar Shoham, who heads PHR research into the Sinai torture camps.

Mogos Redae, 33, was released last June after nine months. His family raised money to free him by selling their house and valuables. He is lucky to be alive.

His captors would apply electric shocks to him and his fellow hostages in front of young children, encouraging the toddlers to laugh as the victims screamed in agony. Three men held with him died as a result of the beatings, one while he was shackled to Redae.

“We fell asleep huddled together but when they tried to wake him, he was dead,” said Redae. “They wrapped him in a bed sheet and threw him on the car, like garbage. They did this to me three times. They threw me to the car and then saw I was alive.

“Nobody stops you from calling whoever you want because they want the money. As long as the person you are calling is fruitful.”

After three weeks of phone calls, Asmerom could no longer bear listening to his friend’s screams. He turned off his phone and started trying to raise the money.

He contacted his friend’s parents in Eritrea, who scrabbled to produce $17,000 by selling the family home. He has given all the money he can. So have his friends and even his employer – an elderly Israeli man he cares for three days a week. He now has $24,000, but it is not enough for the captors and he has exhausted all his options.

“I went to the police station in Jerusalem. I waited for five hours and I told them everything. They said come back when I’ve raised all the money. They didn’t tell me how to do that. Frankly, they didn’t seem to care,” Asmerom said.

A spokesperson for the Israeli police said they were unable to comment on the case or any other without investigating each fully, while Israel’s defence ministry said it would be inappropriate to comment on an internal Egyptian issue. A spokesperson for the Egyptian ministry of the interior claimed to have no information on trafficking or torture in the Sinai region.

But Shoham said: “We know the names of the smugglers and their locations. We have briefed the Egyptian embassy in Israel but so far the Egyptian authorities are not doing anything.

“It is the responsibility of the Egyptian government to stop the traffickers. It is also the responsibility of Israel to protect the victims, but instead the ransoms are getting higher and the stories of torture are getting worse.”

Click on this link to watch video of an Eritrean victim:TheGuardian


Egyptian authorities look the other way as Bedouin kidnap refugees — 34 Comments

  1. The source of these heinous crimes goes directly to the office of Issayas Afewerke. The GOE could have done a lot better “evil” than these “evils”. Many governments in the world are never perfect but at least their imperfection and Mal-governance does not go to the level of GOE’s atrocities.

    The people need to rise and take the example of the Oslo youth, who stood up for the rights of Eritreans. We need to take the example of Elsa Cherium, the activist, who has worked tirelessly on behalf of Eritrean victims in Diaspora. We need to rally around the opposition support them and try to hasten the demise of the current dictatorial regime in Asmara. The opposition is the best we got now and let’s not worry about their imperfections, instead we should support them all the way.

    Issayas and his cronies have failed Eritreans and they must go.

  2. egypt is helping Ertrians. arabs are our friends, we same religion
    esaias is the problem, not the arab. isreal is buying kidenys.we arabs all.
    arabs love our pupil

  3. Zeray how if you be the first person to leave the comfort Zone on the west and Cross to Eritrea and Fight the sheabias?? Can you do that hopeless man/

  4. “ኣይትሓዝለይ ሓትነይ ምላሹ-
    ዝበላዕኩሉ ጻሕልኺ ደርብየዮስ ተሓምሺሹ-
    ግናስ ንኣይ ድኣ ጎድኣኒ ተመሊሹ” !!!!

    ከመዓልኪ ሓትነይ ምላሹ
    ´93 ዝፈረምክለይ ሕጅስ መሽሚሹ
    ህዝበይ ኣብ ገዛእ ዓዱ ተጋይሹ
    ብኮማንደር ድሙ-ድሙ ተዓሽዩ,ተቐሺሹ
    መንእሰይ ብማእሰርቲ ብቶርቸር ,ብጥይት ተረሽሪሹ
    ንዓኺ ምጽልኤይ, ኣነስ ክንደይ ይዕሹ!!!
    ኣሞይ ምላሹ ጓል´ቲ ለባም መሬት
    ደቅኺ ጸባ ይሰትዩ, ኣነን ሓሪሙኒ ሓሬት
    ኣባይ/Nile ገዲብክዮ ብናይ ስድራኺ ሕብረት
    23 ዩኒቨርሲቲታት ናይ ፍልጠት መሰረት
    ኣነስ እታ ሓንቲ እኳ ዓጽዮማ,.ኣዕጢቖምኒ ብረት
    ንስኺ ቀጽልሉ ምዕባለ, ብዘይ ደረት
    ኣነሞ ሎተርያይ ቀዲደያስ, ክመውት´የ ,ወይ ብውግእ ወይ ብጥሜት
    ተቓላጢፈ እንተዘይዘየምጺኤያ ,ዲሞክራስያዊት ሓርነት !!!!!

  5. Poor Eritrean victims everywhere, this taken from the huffingtonpost,
    Feb 15, 2012
    Here’s one story that I haven’t been able to forget:

    Two days after being kidnapped in Sudan, Zahra*, 21, was taken by a group of six men into the forest away from the group, tied by her hands and legs. One man held her down, and another held her legs open; all six of the men raped her repeatedly: She was not fully conscious and could not later say for how many hours this went on. When they had finished she was dragged back to the group and kept in chains, naked. She was tied to 10 other women and children for two weeks. They were burned with matches and beaten and their fingernails were stapled to their fingertips. Finally her mother was able to raise the money from the church for her release.

    My colleagues working in the Shagarab camp where most of the victims end up tell me that at least 2000 people leave Eritrea every month. For a flat but hefty fee, a smuggler, they are told, will transport them to a promised land like Israel, Australia or Europe where they will join relatives and begin a prosperous future. But deception is a human smuggler’s trademark, and the smugglers of East Sudan are particularly cruel and greedy.

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