ICER Action Alert: 600 Eritreans held hostages near Shegerab refugee camps

Friday, 27 April 2012 21:06 ICER

ICER Action Alert: 600 Eritreans held hostages near Shegerab refugee camps

Volume 2012, Number 11

*Reliable source informed ICER that over 600 Eritrean, children, men and women are kept in a ‘slave holding lots’ few kilometers west of Shegerab refugee camps. The story told by an Eritrean who is tirelessly fighting to stop the human trafficking by alerting new arrivals of the dangerous situation awaiting them if they are not careful and also by informing Sudanese authorities of the illegal activities  going under their nose. His information sources are the escapee and animal herders around the holding areas where he has good rapport.  It is known that the victims are held in about 12  homes, under shade of trees and in mountain caves guarded by Sudanese, the Hadendwa and Beni Amer guards. The past two weeks human smuggling have become so brazen that it is done in daytime, at coffee shops and public places with no one to stop it. There are two reasons for that according to our source.

  1. The hostages are restless to be kept in holding areas for months before they are shipped to Sinai. This condition has infuriated many to attempt a daring escape. Few succeed while many are shoot to rot on the ground and the rest chased by Land Cruiser to be chained again.
  2. Recently, government officials in Barka administrative  region begun confiscating vehicles belonging to the Rashidas and urging them to stay put in their ‘villages’ inside Eritrea

Because of the two reasons mentioned above, human trafficker claim to have lost 280 million Sudanese pounds and have to compensate that by kidnapping with impunity. The kidnapped victims include lactating women and children.

The report also indicates that a special envoy of the human traffickers in Sinai was sent to the Sudan to accelerate the process of kidnapping. At one point in holding place where the Egyptian envoy was visiting Sudanese security forces descended on them and after few minutes of gun battle few died and many escaped including the Egyptian sent to oversee the human trafficking operation. Few of the Eritrean escapees are sheltered with our informant and are in a state of trepidation.

The irony is that the Sudanese police are told by the escapees (and the shepherds under hidden identity) of the exact places where the victims are held under duress but unwilling to take action. Given the corruption that permeates in Sudan’s government structure one cannot expect a drastic action from the security forces who we know are part and parcel of the human trafficking game. ICER is however obligated to write to the Sudanese Interior Minster expressing its dismay with regard to the situation. The letter sent to the minster is shown below.

*It is to be recalled that ICER Alert No. 7 reported that a young man who freed himself from the clutches of Abu Abdellah (አቡ ዓብደላ) gangs in the Sinai to find shelter in the home of Sheikh Mohamed, the Selfi. It turned out that Solomon Welday (ሰለሞን ወልዳይ), a 27 year old demobilized army personnel, was a collaborator to and co-tormentor of the hostages with Josin, the underlining of Abu Abdellah (አቡ ዓብደላ). This is according to testimony given by people who were his victims and just made it to Israel after Solomon (ሰለሞን) with the help Eritreans and International organizations made it safely to Cairo. Solomon(ሰለሞን) who went out of his way to convert to Islam perhaps to show his loyalty committed untold suffering to the hostages for many months before his dashing escape. According to the testimony he fell in disfavor by his masters after 4 hostages died due to torture by electricity. He was blamed for their death and therefore less income for the gangs living on the back of Eritrean families. We hope to update you of the alleged involvement of Solomon in the threat, torture and perhaps death of innocent Eritreans.

*The letter  sent to the minister:

Minister of Interior
Ibrahim Mohamed Hamed
Ministry of Interior
PO Box 873 Khartoum, Sudan

We are writing this letter to draw your attention to the plight of Eritrean refugees who have recently been deported from Sudan to Eritrea, a country they fled as a result of the well-documented human rights' violations. These Eritrean refugees, mostly young men and women, are fleeing their homeland to avoid egregious violations of their dignity, their right to a private life in areas such as faith and political affiliation, and persecution fuelled by unacceptable and never-ending military service, as documented by numerous independent observers.

Furthermore, our concern is especially focused on recent event where some 600 Eritrean, men, women and children who are held hostages in 12 private homes, under tree shades and some in mountain caves few kilometers away east of the Shegrab refugee camps. We have a reliable source that the victims are kept around the Gouz area captured in broad day light from Halfa Al Jedida and kessela on their way to the refugee camps. Few days ago an attempt was made by the Sudanese security forces to free some of the hostages where gun battle erupted between the criminals and the police. We are grateful that few were able to regain their freedom as the result of the bold move  at the same time saddened to learn that 11 among those who attempted to escape  where recaptured by the human smugglers. During this episode, some Eritrean compatriots volunteered to show the police the hide out of the criminals and urged the police to flash out of these criminals for good. To our dismay the police, although well armed and sizeable in number refused to take the action.

We urge the Sudanese government to respect its international obligations by facilitating the transfer of all hostages to the care of UNHCR or similar organizations engaged in the protection of people fleeing their birth place. We further appeal to your sense of humanity to refrain from taking further actions involving deportation, but to respect the international conventions to which your country is a signatory.

Yebio Woldemariam, Ph.D
President International Commission on
Eritrean refugees