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Concerns about possible sale of refugees held hostage in Sinai

ICC Note

Many refugees, including Christians who left Eritrea due to religious persecution, are held hostage in Sinai Desert. They need immediate assistance from the international community as their situation is deteriorating.

12/10/2010 Eritrea (CSW)-Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is gravely concerned by reports that around 100 of the 250 Eritrean refugees being held hostage by Bedouin people traffickers in the Sinai Desert have been moved overnight.

The Eritreans are part of a much larger group of refugees and asylum seekers from Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia who have been imprisoned for over a month in degrading conditions. Despite paying US$2,000 for passage to Israel, these people have been held hostage for months on the outskirts of a town in the Sinai Desert in purpose-built containers, while Bedouin people traffickers demand payment of up to US$8,000 per person for their release. CSW has also been informed that prior to separating and moving some of the Eritreans, the traffickers tore up the refugees’ religious materials and assaulted them severely for failing to make these payments.

The exploitation of asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa by people traffickers in the Sinai Desert is an ongoing problem. Kidnapping, organ trafficking and the trading of groups of asylum seekers between different gangs is common, and there are fears that the 100 Eritreans may have been sold on to other dealers in the area.

CSW’s National Director Stuart Windsor said, “The latest news that some of the refugees have been moved suddenly and under cover of darkness is deeply worrying. The welfare of the remaining refugees is also of great concern. It is clear that their situation is deteriorating rapidly. The entire international community must mobilize to increase pressure on the Egyptian government to take effective measures to liberate these people, and to grant them the protection that they are entitled to as refugees under international law, as well as unhindered access to the local branch of the UNHCR.”

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