CSW calls for effective action for Eritrean hostages in Sinai

Thursday, 13 January 2011 03:27 EveryOne Group

By EveryOne Group

January 11, 2011. CSW is marking Global Human Trafficking Awareness Day by renewing its call for effective action to release Eritreans and other nationals who are being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment in the Sinai desert by Bedouin people traffickers.

For over two months the refugees and asylum seekers have been held in chains in purpose built facilities south of Rafah on Egypt’s border with Israel. Despite having paid US$2000 each for transfer to Israel, traffickers are torturing them in order to obtain an additional $8000 per person from their family and friends abroad. They are repeatedly beaten, branded like cattle, and are often deprived of food and water, forcing some to drink their own urine. Several men have been informed their organs will be harvested in lieu of payment, while women are repeatedly raped by numerous assailants. Italian NGO Agenzia Habeshia reports that on Saturday, four female hostages who are still unable to meet the ransom were once again subjected to gang-rape, while a pregnant woman was so badly beaten that she is now reported to be extremely unwell.

Although the plight of the hostages has now been highlighted by Pope Benedict XVI, the European Parliament, the UNHCR and the international media, there has been no action on the part of the Egyptian government to secure their release. Instead, small groups of hostages were released and transported to Israel in batches during December as friends and family managed to meet the extortionate terms for their release.

 According to the Italian NGO EveryOne Group, efforts to tackle the problem by a reluctant Egyptian government may have been hampered by limitations placed upon it by the 1978 Camp David Accords whereby its troops on this border must be armed lightly. The wealthy Bedouin, on the other hand, are heavily armed. “If Egypt and Israel fail to sign a new agreement on the Sinai, trafficking in migrants, slaves, children and human organs will continue in the future."

 CSW Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said: “The continuing plight of the refugees in the Sinai desert is an indictment on humanity and on the international community. Human trafficking is modern day slavery; it is an international crime that spans national borders. Tackling it is therefore the responsibility of all nations, yet despite the increasing profile of this case, there has been no effective action. International pressure must be maintained until the Egyptian government takes its responsibility for the welfare of refugees seriously, and acts to end the inexcusable suffering of these unfortunate people. 

CSW is a human rights organisation which specialises in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.

Refugees in the Sinai: update from EveryOne Group

Tuesday, January 11, 2011, by EveryOne Group

After the complaint filed by EveryOne Group, the Hon. Graham Watson MEP has requested intervention from the Delegation of the European Union in Cairo.

Florence, January 11th, 2011. After a complaint filed by EveryOne with the Egyptian and international authorities, the Hon. Graham Watson, MEP for South West England and Gibraltar, member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), sent a letter to EveryOne Group concerning the case of the Eritrean refugees being held hostage by traffickers in human beings in northern Sinai, in Egypt.

We thank Hon. Watson for his commitment and the interest he has shown in this case. We are publishing the letter he sent to the activists of EveryOne, in the hope that the EU delegation in Cairo will be able to take urgent action to put a stop to the atrocities being carried out towards Somali, Eritrean, Sudanese and Ethiopian refugees by the Rashaida Bedouin tribe and Abu Khaled.

Further update from EveryOne Group:

After filing the complaint, an official from the Interior Ministry has contacted the activists for more information on the victims of kidnappings and violence, as well as details of the young men murdered by the traffickers. EveryOne has supplied this information. We get the impression that we are at a possible turning point, motivated primarily by the intervention of Graham Watson.

Complaint against the traffickers of the Sinai

Tuesday, January 11, 2011, by EveryOne Group

Complaint by EveryOne Group and Facebook Group “Save African refugees in the northern Sinai” against the traffickers of the Sinai for crimes of murder, kidnapping, extortion, torture, and rape.

EveryOne Group, an international human rights organization based in Italy, and Facebook Group  “Save African refugees in the northern Sinai” have filed a complaint with the Egyptian authorities for the murder of  two young Eritrean men. Their names were Goytom and Asmerom. The two boys were killed in Rafah, in northern Sinai, on December 11th, 2010 at 16:30. The traffickers shot them in front of many Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somali and Sudanese witnesses. We have not disclosed the surnames of the victims to ensure the safety of their families back in Eritrea. These families are already the victims of the humanitarian crisis in their country and the heavy extortion by the traffickers. Their full names, however, are known to the migrants who have lived in the same detention camp in Rafah. The murderers have subjected migrants to continued violence, torture, and extortion. The tragedy took place in a fruit orchard south of Rafah, near a government building and a former Christian church that has now been converted into a school. There is also a mosque nearby. The fruit orchard is already known to police for the presence of human beings who are being illegally held in ten metal shipping containers. The shipping containers are buried below ground and the migrants are forced to remain there until their relatives have paid their ransom. 

The Palestinian Bedouin, Abu Khaled, (or Khalid) ordered his men to kill the two Eritrean refugees. Abu Khaled is known by the police for his trafficking in human beings, weapons and drugs. He has been charged with the formation of armed gangs and committing violent crimes. Khaled works in collusion with the terrorist organizations Hamas and Al Qaeda. The gang is part of the organized crime network that operates in northern Sinai (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/6817385/Egypts-Gaza-smugglers-shrug-off-reports-of-border -barrier.html, http://www.thenational.ae/news/worldwide/middle-east/roads-to-riches-run-deep-in-rafah?pageCount=3, http://www.twnside.org .sg/title2/resurgence/2009/221-222/cover8.htm). The gang uses about 20 armed criminals to watch over, using torture and blackmail, the African migrants in the detention camp. According to our information, part of the group of African migrants is being held in the district of al-Mahdeyya, south of Rafah. There was a police operation in the village of al-Mahdeyya in September 2010. Unfortunately, some police officers fired on a small group of refugees who had fled from the traffickers. EveryOne Group also reports the murder of other six young Africans. They were assassinated in front of the group we are following. We have also reported to the authorities the connection between the drug traffickers and organized crime, which runs the black market for human organs. Four young Eritreans were taken to an illegal clinic, where they had a kidney removed. The four boys have not returned and may well have been murdered.

We were able to communicate to the Egyptian authorities that one of the criminals who cooperates with Abu Khaled is the Ethiopian Fatawi Mahari. Mahari is already well-known for trafficking and other criminal activities. His name is known by the North Sinai police and Israeli intelligence (http://www.haaretz.com/news/netanyahu-migrant-workers-risk-israel-s-jewish-character-1.261840). The criminal was investigated by Israeli police in September 2009 on charges of trafficking in Egypt. Mahari was also investigated for kidnapping and extortion. Investigations have linked him to the Bedouin Rashaida and Sawarqa tribes. Fatawi Mahari is also known for his links with Hamas and the smugglers who are in control of the Rafah tunnels. He keeps contacts with the international Mafia. The Israeli authorities, however, released him and he is now on the loose.

In our report we supplied the phone numbers being used by the traffickers (removed for security reasons). The numbers have been used to receive calls from the hostages' families, outside Egypt.

Investigators are able to check the flow of ransom money, by controlling transfers received by the Western Union local agencies. There is also a current account in an Egyptian bank which is being used by the traffickers to receive money from the migrants' families. The released refugees, in Egypt and Israel, can confirm the existence of the account and provide the authorities with the account number. 

We fully understand the difficulties the Egyptian police face in tackling the traffickers. The Camp David agreements in 1978 between Egypt and Israel prevents the border police using heavy weapons and armoured vehicles. The traffickers, on the other hand, are in the possession of modern, powerful weapons. We know, however, that in recent years Israel has already granted exemptions to the agreements for reasons of national security or important crises. And trafficking in human beings and the presence of organized crime is a serious national emergency. That is why we are appealing to the authorities to set up a task force to free the immigrants and prosecute the criminals. The task force must be suitably armed and equipped. 

After filing this complaint EveryOne Group and Facebook Group  “Save African refugees in the northern Sinai “ ask the Egyptian police force to intervene immediately at the traffickers' property. It is of the utmost importance to free the refugees still being held in the shipping containers and prosecute those responsible for the abductions, killings, tortures, cases of rape and extortion. We have also received reports about other groups of migrants being detained in northern Sinai by criminal gangs belonging to the Rashaida and Sawarqa tribes, and the families of Abu Khaled, Abu Ahmed, Sawarqa, Hussein Abu Mohammed, and others. 

We beg you to act immediately, it is a matter of life or death. Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.