People traffickers stalk Eritreans in Sudan desert

By Ian Timberlake (AFP) SHAGARAB REFUGEE CAMP, SUDAN — Moving at night through the cold, flat desert, armed people smugglers are exploiting, abducting and sometimes killing Eritreans fleeing their authoritarian homeland, the UN and refugees say. "People

By Ian Timberlake (AFP)

SHAGARAB REFUGEE CAMP, SUDAN — Moving at night through the cold, flat desert, armed people smugglers are exploiting, abducting and sometimes killing Eritreans fleeing their authoritarian homeland, the UN and refugees say.

“People catch us, sell us like a goat,” one Eritrean asylum-seeker said of the human traffickers.

Like others who have reached this wind-blown collection of shelters inside the Sudanese border, he accused the local Rashaida tribe of involvement in the people trade, which the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) is hoping to counter through a $2-million effort to support local police and improve camp security.

“These groups that are involved in this are heavily armed. We hear of firefights between government forces and these armed groups,” said Felix Ross, the UNHCR’s senior protection officer in Sudan’s eastern region.

He told AFP the problem has emerged over the past two or three years, with the UNHCR hearing of at least 20 kidnapping cases a month.

“But we believe that the number itself is much higher,” Ross said.

On a visit to the Shagarab camp on Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said a global criminal network of smugglers and kidnappers is “taking profit of the desperate situation of many Eritreans.”

Shagarab camp receives about 2,000 asylum-seekers monthly, largely from neighbouring Eritrea where many have fled compulsory military service.

The UN estimates that 80 percent of the new arrivals leave the camp within two months for Khartoum, Egypt, Israel or further afield, in search of better economic opportunities.

“Due to the limitation on the freedom of movement of refugees in Sudan, refugees and asylum-seekers resort to smugglers to transport them into, through and out of Sudan,” a UNHCR briefing paper said.

But some simply end up being kidnapped for ransoms which the UNHCR said can reach $10,000.

“Here there is not security. There is many person kidnapped,” an Eritrean who has spent four months at Shagarab said, speaking in English.

He and other Eritreans interviewed during a UN-organised visit cannot be named, for their own protection.

One 23-year-old woman — who like the men said she had fled military service — said smugglers took her in 2010 from Eritrea to Egypt, “and when we arrived there they asked my family for more money,” which they did not have.

She was arrested and jailed before being deported and then making her way — this time without involving traffickers — to the Sudanese camp.

An Eritrean man, aged 27, said camp residents face a risk of being snatched if they walk out to the toilet area at night.

Others are “kidnapped by Rashaida” on their way in from the border, he said at the one-room cement block he shares with 25 other men. Their belongings hang from the wall beside a picture of Christ.

“They ask them for ransom money… some of the people said it’s about 50,000 pounds ($12,000),” he said through a translator. “Most of the time they cannot pay, so they are tortured.”

UNHCR chief Guterres said some refugees who ended up in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula were “killed for the traffic of organs.”

The Rashaida are a camel-raising tribe whose buildings near the state capital Kassala are painted bright pastel pink and blue.

The area around their roadside market, a row of corrugated metal shacks, is believed to be a smuggling hotbed for everything including people, Ross said.

Human traffickers are “making a lot of money in a region where it’s difficult to earn money,” he said.

“We know that in the refugee community there are people working with these criminal groups.”

Between Kassala and the camps 120 kilometres (75 miles) away, the Eritrean border lies beyond trees barely visible in the distance across the barren brown earth — the smugglers’ turf.

“If you were to travel here by night you would see a lot of lights crossing through the desert,” Ross said.

Sudan’s refugee commission recognises almost all of the new asylum-seekers as refugees, but if they stay in the camps they could wait years for resettlement, and have little in common with older refugees or the local population.

The Eritreans arriving since 2005 are mostly Christian and not Arabic speakers, in contrast with an older group of mostly Muslim Eritreans who began fleeing to Muslim-majority Sudan four decades ago during their country’s independence war with Ethiopia, the UN says.

“How about us, the newcomers?” an Eritrean who has spent eight months at the camp asked AFP. “Nobody cares about us.”

aseye.asena@gmail.com

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21 COMMENTS
  • Kozami January 14, 2012

    Assenna has tried it best to taint PIA in ugly colors, however they are short of facts. According to assenna, PIA was unhappy and simply walks away! well that is civility. Meles is unhappy he digs martyrs graves (sellout opposition have actually lent a hand by moving the earth), deports innocent people having robbed their money, slaughters peaceful demonstrators in broad day light and refuses to give aid food to the starving while burning villages and closing an entire province from the int’l donor community that have him on life support. All these are not inventions but independently corroborated FACTS!

    • daniel January 14, 2012

      Kozami,

      You need help. You’re obsessed with Meles. Why are you bringing up Meles to every issue pertaining either Isaias or Eritrea? You sound like a dude jilted by a girlfriend and who is left talking about her as if there is no tomorrow. My worry is if you get stopped for speeding or running the red light, I hope you’re not going to blame it on Meles. You’re so pathetic.

      • kozami January 14, 2012

        daniel

        Who else is there? Can you tell me your stand on EEBC decision? Can you tell me your stand about displaced and deported ERITREANS? You have to check with your hamham reisi tanika … just guessing!

      • halengi sewra January 14, 2012

        You better ignore Kozame. he is just blinded by Eri-Tv.

        • Kokhob Selam January 15, 2012

          PFDJ and supporters will be responsible for all crimes. the day is near to see democatic Eritrea and we will clean the garbage from the root.

    • Bus-Zone January 15, 2012

      Kozami
      Let me remind you . u should thank Meles bcz he brought ISsias to the power when they kicked out ELF and your by product of that , ugly by nature and no conscience

    • Selomon January 15, 2012

      Kozmai !

      Though it is pity to waste my precious time writting to you, I would like to tell you that you better keep quiet! The world is not in 1935 (trenta chinque!). The transparence of information makes it now adays possible to see the reality with the correct glas!

      We will work hard to let you and your Boss DIA disappeare from the surface of the world.

  • SINGAPO - ERITREAN January 14, 2012

    While I have no shred of evidence & it is unreasonable to paint such a holy /holey govt. like ours´, I would not be surprised if PFDJ has a hand in this misery. I would like to apologize to all sympathizers of the ERITREAN BANDIT…oops..I mean govt……….bla…bla…bla

  • SINGAPO - ERITREAN January 14, 2012

    Fellow citzens ,

    Do me a favor ,look at the eyes of the Eritrean lady above . Could any body look at those eyes & attempt to defend the undefendable ? Let us grow a conscience ,please , I beg you . We are good people ….it is the bandits that have spread the culture of disrespect to our elders…they “enlightened /endarkened” us with negativity ,cruelty ,lack of empathy and MAMA MUDADA is most guilty of this crime !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • halengi sewra January 14, 2012

      You are very perceptive! whenever I opened this page I have to look at those sad eyes who are gazing miles away for about 5min or more. And those eyes tell a lot. I wish I could print the pic and hang it in my living room. Thank you for sharing your perception.

      • Kokhob Selam January 15, 2012

        yes, this will end with PFDJ. no other solution.

  • Marosso January 14, 2012

    kozami as your nick you kozam idiot you have no idea what’s happening in our country not yours.I am sure you have no idea about Eritrea, you must be a son of looser(Terserawit shinty) why you care,you will support criminal gov coz you need to have identity. dreaming soon Ere: will be for it’s own ppl and ppl like you be shipped to where your daddy /mommy are!!( tigray/amara region wollo feel free to write coz you are looser by the way how old are you? you might be one of weyane shinty grow up and shenka dekis you don’t wet your dirty firnash::

    • alex January 14, 2012

      Kozami
      I know you are trying to irritate us with your stupid comments. No wonder
      you have strange name. And to make fun of our pain only proofs that you
      are not real Eritrean, you hater, get lost from this site.

    • kozami January 15, 2012

      Apparently, latest news indicate that the sadistic woyane is in the process of writing-off the useless seb sharba and trying another hand to mislead innocent young refugees. What ever they have sent you to do, you better cut n run, ‘cos they’re pulling the plug on you. Just a warning!

    • Kokhob Selam January 15, 2012

      you and your boss and your party will end like the end of Gaddafi. all those dirty words will go and our orginal culture and value will replace.

  • Cambo January 15, 2012

    There are many Eritrean opposition groups in eastern Sudan, such as Kesela, what kind of logistic problems do they have to control the few and the minority Rashaidas?
    There are many refugees of Eritrean origin also who had settled in eastern Sudan, what is their weakness to control the few hundred marauding Rashaidas?

  • Mike January 15, 2012

    Mr. Ian Timberlake (AFP) !

    Yes, “Nobody cares about us.”. That is the truth! Your pseudo-report is unimaginary and impossible! We all agree that the main perpetrator in this dilemma is the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres.

    Your contradictory report says “… — Moving at night through the cold, flat desert, armed people smugglers are exploiting, abducting and sometimes killing Eritreans fleeing their authoritarian homeland, … visit to the Shagarab camp on Thursday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said a global criminal network of smugglers and kidnappers is “taking profit of the desperate situation of many Eritreans.”…”

    How to nthe hell can then say “… leave the camp within two months for Khartoum, Egypt, Israel or further afield, in search of better economic opportunities… “.

    Please tell the world who the main enemy of the refugees is – naturally the UN! These are people like you with dreams and hope, but not economic refugees.

    Try to analyse or reason out why these Eritreans are condemned to leave their warm homeland. The reader/listner conformed reporte have no relevance to the real situation of the poor Eritresn refugees.

    Please change your atittude, you journalists/reorters!

  • tesfaldet January 16, 2012

    like isayed abad breaking news FOR MELES & SUZAN RICE eritrean ammbasador from KENYA report that the craying of KENYA that erirea deliver arm to ALSHEBAB is in correct so what new game are they going to play this is very bad news indid they where thinking that the world is going to belive what every they say this is not the 20 senchury this is new generation & iam glad that the RUSIA is the president in the UN not those african countrys who lie for some hand outs so go TO WWW. MESKEREM .COM read on the top of the article

  • X TEGADALAYE January 16, 2012

    I didin’t get it way dont you arm your self and difend your people. haw mainy Eritreans are in Sudan i wonder haw we gat ower cantry. There is no gat evrey bady is selfishe man up get organzed and show them you are fiter.

  • Selomon January 17, 2012

    In normal case DIA and his regime ought react! See how the Germany and Austrians reply the assault hapende to their citizens in Ethiopia:

    “”Bild”: Deutscher und Österreicher in Äthiopien getötet
    Auswärtiges Amt prüft Berichte über tödlichen Überfall
    AFP – 17.01.2012
    http://de.nachrichten.yahoo.com/bild-deutscher-%C3%B6sterreicher-%C3%A4thiopien-get%C3%B6tet-190301009.html

    Das Auswärtige Amt geht Hinweisen auf einen möglichen tödlichen Überfall auf eine Reisegruppe mit mehreren Deutschen in Äthiopien nach. Das Ministerium und die deutsche Botschaft in Addis Abeba seien “mit Hochdruck” um die Aufklärung des Sachverhalts und des Schicksals der Deutschen bemüht, sagte ein Ministeriumssprecher in Berlin. Weitere Angaben wollte er zunächst nicht machen. Nach Informationen der “Bild”-Zeitung wurden bei einem Überfall auf eine Reisegruppe im Nordosten Äthiopiens ein Deutscher und ein Österreicher erschossen.
    Ein weiterer Deutscher sei bei dem Überfall schwer verletzt worden, zwei Deutsche seien entführt worden, meldet das Blatt unter Berufung auf Sicherheitskreise in Berlin. Der Überfall ereignete sich demnach unweit des Vulkans Erta Ale nahe der Grenze zu Eritrea.

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