mercoledì 30 novembre 2011

International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent


Statement by H.E. Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, Apostolic Nuncio,
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other Specialized Organizations at  the 31st  International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent
Geneva, 28 November - 2 December 2011

Madame Chairperson,

1. Today’s crises can arrive totally unexpected. Economic, political and humanitarian upheavals worries both the ‘developing’ and the ‘developed’ world. Centres of tension multiply. Violent conflicts are fought in urban conglomerates and it is difficult to distinguish between combatants and civilians who continue to be, by far, the first victims, dead, injured, disabled, of armed conflicts. Action for humanity becomes urgent and demands concrete answers. ‘Public conscience’ as referred to in the “Martens’ Clause” needs to be reawaken.[1]

2. Areas of concern targeted for discussion are the worldwide impact of natural disasters and related displacement; the rapidly changing nature of human vulnerability; the evolving human and material cost of contemporary armed conflicts and other situations of violence, that make access to health more difficult; increasing global migration. These concerns indicate new developments that provoke human suffering. Life moves ahead of legislation and thus ‘public conscience’ serves well while the international community awaits for legal measures to catch up with life. In the meantime the same effort must continue to develop rules that prevent suffering and save lives that marked the emergence of international humanitarian law from its beginning.  The acquired  patrimony of values ​​and norms has to be preserved, applied and made more relevant and responsive to new situations. Yet the inhumanity of conflicts, particularly when the use of arms is chosen to resolve tensions and controversies that could be solved by means provided by dialogue and negotiation, and the inadequate response to some recent emergencies, are before our eyes. International humanitarian law, in the name of a common good, is always a warning to renounce violence on any person, civilian or combatant, prohibiting the indiscriminate and unrestraint use of violence and weapons. Increasingly it should  become the basis for action inspired by solidarity toward the direct or indirect victims of  natural or man-made disasters.

3. There are moments when peoples and nations are compelled to claim the right to protect their existence, dignity and freedom. ‘Public conscience’, common to the human family, makes us aware that unfortunately this goal of protection often becomes an occasion to use degrading means both distant from the legal achievements of international law and ineffective in resolving conflicts and disputes. The adoption of dialogue and negotiation, including through the intervention of an impartial third party or of an international authority with sufficient powers, now is a choice no longer to be postponed.[2] Responsible dialogue will guarantee to opposing parties the respect of their legitimate aspirations and a durable peace.
The end of conflicts always carries with it the problem of repatriation of prisoners of war, a humanitarian problem par excellence, that from the perspective of the Holy See includes the reunification of families and the resumption of normal affections, effective ways to ensure reconciliation and justice.
Following the indications of this Conference it will be necessary to consolidate  proposals for effective action plans. The international community can not ignore the persons kept away from their loved ones and their country without a justifiable reason; the victims of the devastating effects of violent conflicts and the civilians suffering from civil conflicts that by now have become endemic. Our thoughts turn to children victims of war or  uprooted from their families and recruited as child soldiers. Millions of refugees and displaced persons also are  anxious to return to their land especially since, while forcibly relocated in other regions, they see threatened their ethnic, religious or linguistic identity, and even their very existence.

4. International humanitarian law should be able to respond to emergency situations determined by natural and man-made disasters. Effective action should be guided by solid ethical and moral principles. This task can not be ignored by the various currents of thought, nor by faith-communities, and the way forward is to retrace the same path that led to the great achievements of the protection of the human person. In such conflicts, humanitarian action, if inspired by solidarity, a spirit of brotherhood and loyal service[3], it will be integrated in a comprehensive and effective plan that includes, inter alia, reconstruction, medical care and a sense of justice.
5. The Holy See does not present technical solutions for the problems posed by today’s emergencies. It considers it her duty, however, to point out at this Conference that no principle, no tradition, no claim - whatever its legitimacy - authorizes to inflict on a people repressive actions or inhuman treatment - more so when it consists of innocent and defenceless civilians. It does so in the name of the supremacy of those «principles of international law…and the requirements of public conscience» that remain the solid foundation of international humanitarian law. In this context, we are reminded that the simple application of the law is not sufficient. Pope John Paul II, reflecting on his experience under Nazi and Communist totalitarianism, wrote: «True peace … is the fruit of justice, that moral virtue and legal guarantee which ensures full respect for rights and responsibilities, and the just distribution of benefits and burdens. But because human justice is always fragile and imperfect, subject as it is to the limitations and egoism of individuals and groups, it must include and, as it were, be completed by the forgiveness which heals and rebuilds troubled human relations from their foundations».[4]
6. In the search for solutions, the Catholic Church offers a concrete contribution through education and action. It teaches that the source of human dignity and inalienable rights resides  in the  spiritual and physical unity of the person. Through the formation of conscience, citizens can be prepared to promote those values ​​of humanity that international humanitarian law, more than juridical norms, has made operational exactly in situations where the dignity of the human person is violated and denied. When humanitarian action is reduced to a mere application of norms and procedures there is the risk to weaken the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment enshrined in the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, and perhaps to return to the excesses that those instruments have solemnly and appropriately condemned. Catholic organizations all over the world carry out  humanitarian assistance and promote humanitarian law in this spirit as the 2011 Report of the Holy See to the ICRC shows.

7. These, Madame Chairperson, are some thoughts that the Delegation of the Holy See wants to present this Conference to encourage governments and international institutions to help break existing stalemates; to take specific and timely steps to overcome conflicts; to look in  a new light at victims of cluster bombs, mines and other weapons; to renew concern for refugees and displaced persons; to enact generous forms of solidarity with all victims of disasters, catastrophes and conflicts and thus fulfil the aspiration for unity of the human family.

Thank you, Madame Chairperson!

[1] According to the Martens’ Clause: «populations and belligerents remain under the protection and empire of the principles of international law, as they result from the usages established  between civilized nations, from the laws of humanity and from the requirements of the public conscience»; 1899 Hague Convention No. II, Preamble, 9.

[2] See Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 67.
[3] See Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, 19.
[4] Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, January 1, 2002.

More than 350 asylum seekers are now being held in Sinai torture camps; hostages include pregnant women and minors.

Physicians for Human Rights - Israel  וו  Hotline for Migrant Workers  - Israel
Agenzia Habeshia - Italy  וו  Release Eritrea – United Kingdom
International Commission on Eritrean Refugees (ICER) – United States
Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) - Sweden
The America Team for Displaced Eritreans – United States


- Press Release -

According to Testimonies Collected World-Wide
 and Despite Recent Reports regarding Refugees Released in Sinai:

More than 350 asylum seekers are now being held in Sinai torture camps; hostages include pregnant women and minors.

The torture camps continue to operate even though detailed information describing smuggling networks operating in Sinai and beyond has been transferred to the international community, diplomats, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and Israeli authorities.

Information describing collaborators located in Israeli territory has been transferred to the Israeli police, yet the police have made no arrests.

The organizations Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Hotline for Migrant Workers in Israel, Agenzia Habeshia in Italy, Release Eritrea in the UK,  the International Commission on Eritrean Refugees (ICER), the America Team for Displaced Eritreans and the Swedish Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)publish today concrete information about smuggling and torture networks operating in Sinai, Egypt.

For more than 18 months, the chilling evidence of horrors inflicted by human traffickers onto refugees as they are on their way to Israel through the Sinai desert has been published and broadcasted throughout the world and in Israel. During the past year, the organizations signed on this document have provided detailed information, systematically collected, regarding smuggling networks operating in the Sinai and beyond  to influential bodies in the international community including diplomats, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the Israeli authorities. The information transferred by the organizations and published today includes details on smugglers operating in Sinai and those that assist them in Israel and Sudan.

The organizations are in continuous contact with refugees held hostage in the Sinai camps; today's released report is based on the most recent information collected via phone conversations over the last few weeks. According to these conversations, 4 groups are currently being held by smugglers: a group of 165 refugees held north of the city Mansoura, Egypt, a group of 59 refugees in North Sinai near the city of Rafah, a group of 111 people held in an unknown location, and a group of 17 Sudanese refugees apparently held in the village of Al Jorra in Sinai.

The Israeli organizations publish today about their many communications with the Israeli police regarding suspected collaborators that have collected ransom money inside of Israel and transferred it to the human traffickers in Sinai. Representatives from these organizations as well as refugees living in Israel have submitted a number of complaints about collaborators to the Israeli police in the last few months. Activists from the organizations claim that despite the information that was transferred, despite several meetings with the relevant police unit, and despite the testimony from the refugees in Israel, the police have yet to take this issue seriously.

The organizations also publish today that of the refugees interviewed by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel in the last year alone, 39 of them were kidnapped by smugglers and arrived to Israel against their will. On November 7, 2011, the Hotline for Migrant Workers spoke with an Eritrean refugee who was kidnapped along with 84 Eritrean refugees in Kassala, Sudan and only managed to be released from captivity in Sinai after 6 months of hardship and a payment of 10,000 dollars.

The organizations Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Hotline for Migrant Workers, Agenzia Habeshia, International Commission on Eritrean Refugees, America Team for Displaced Eritreans, Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights, and Release Eritrea call again on the Egyptian and Israeli authorities and the international community to act quickly in order to free the refugees held hostage in the Sinai, to prosecute the smugglers and those that assist them, to bring an immediate end to the torture camps and the network of human trafficking, and to provide care for the torture survivors.


For more details:


Yael Marom, Spokesperson, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel

Telephone: +972 (0)52-5563485 e-mail:


Sigal Rozen- Hotline for Migrants Workers

Telephone: +972 (0)54-8177845


John Stauffer- The America Team for Displaced Eritreans:


 Dr. Yonas Mehari- ICER (International Commission on Eritrean Refugees:


 Father Mussie Zerai - Agenzia Habeshia:


Selam Kidane - Release Eritrea:

Meron Estefanos- EMDHR (Eritrean Movement for Democracy  and Human Rights):

Migrants in Egypt Targeted For Body Parts

 Migrants in Egypt Targeted For Body Parts
People fleeing persecution in countries like Eritrea are being killed in Egypt for their body parts.
According to a doctor in a town on the Sudan-Egypt border quoted by South Africa’s Weekend Argus newspaper, a number of “disemboweled bodies” have been discovered. Organs, especially kidneys, were missing.
A recent car crash in Sinai provided evidence. The doctor who was driving the car was killed and, inside the vehicle, officials discovered a small refrigerator containing several human organs. There is other evidence including photographs from a morgue in the Egyptian port town of al-Arish showing scars in the abdomens of refugees who did not make it.
At least 27 refugees have alleged that Egyptian Bedouin people-smugglers have threatened to steal their organs unless they or their families paid money, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Israel says.
The Egyptian authorities are known for ignoring the treatment of migrants by traffickers and others, or, in the case of those trying for the Israeli border, actually shooting to kill. They deny the evidence of any trade in body parts.
Italian-based Eritrean agency Agenzia Habeshia provided evidence of some 300 Eritreans and Ethiopians who are being held in police stations in Aswan in Southern Egypt and in the military camp of Shelal in “inhuman and degrading conditions”.
The inter-governmental organisation International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) has listed the situation in Aswan as “very serious”.
Beatings are a regular feature of detention and political and religious refugees in particular are subjected to torture to make them sign “voluntary repatriation requests”.
IOM say that last week more than 100 Christian Eritreans who suffer religious persecution and fear for their lives in Eritrea, were beaten repeatedly until they signed.
“Refugees and asylum-seekers returned to Eritrea have been detained incommunicado and tortured upon return,” Amnesty International said. They have accused the Egyptians of denying refugees access to UNHCR.
The situation in camps run by traffickers is worse, with slavery well documented aside from the alleged, lucrative body parts trade. In the Sinai, criminals hold hostage, kill, torture, and rape migrants.
PHR Israel earlier this year published a survey based on interviews with 284 asylum seekers who made it to Israel. Some 44 per cent said they witnessed violence and/or fatalities of other asylum seekers while they were in the Sinai and the vast majority (88 per cent) stated they experienced severe hunger and food deprivation.
Many women have asked for abortions after being raped.
A leader from the largest Bedouin tribe told CNN said he was aware that rogue elements of his tribe are engaged in people trafficking, bonded labor and torture.
Several hundred Eritreans were recently released from hostage by local Bedouin police working with an NGO coalition. But authorities have been slow to act, if at all, despite being given details about individual criminals.

Read more:

Q&A: Eritreans can have Canada’s protection from country’s ‘diaspora tax’: Jason Kenney

 Nov 29, 2011 – 11:10 PM ET

Nick Procaylo / Postmedia News files
Nick Procaylo / Postmedia News files
Jason Kenney
The National Post recently revealed the Eritrean consulate in Toronto has been collecting a 2% “diaspora tax” from Eritrean-Canadians, a levy some said they paid unwillingly and called extortion. Last week, the Winnipeg Free Press reported a similar scheme in the Manitoba capital. The fundraising is controversial because of Eritrea’s brutal suppression of dissent and because the United Nations says it has been financing, training and arming African militant groups such as the al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab, which has called for terrorist attacks in Canada. In an interview with reporter Stewart Bell Tuesday, Jason Kenney, the Minister of Citizenship & Immigration, said he was concerned about the issue.
Q: Eritrean-Canadians have complained they are being pressured to give money to the Eritrean government through the consulate in Toronto and community groups. Are you familiar with this and if so what do you think?

A: It certainly concerns me. If any foreign government is pressuring Canadians to do anything illicit, that’s deeply concerning to us. Our government has curtailed the ability of foreign governments to run elections in Canada using Canada as an electoral constituency, and thereby demonstrating our concern about excessive foreign interference in diaspora populations. If there was any kind of intimidation used, that’s totally unacceptable.
Q: Should Eritrea be allowed to raise funds like this when it is under UN sanctions for supporting Al-Shabab?
A: It is illegal to raise funds in Canada for proscribed terrorist entities such as Al-Shabab. And it’s illegal to do indirectly what it is illegal to do directly. So that would certainly be of concern. If there’s any evidence that funds being raised here are finding their way to Al-Shabab, I would hope that the relevant law enforcement agencies are investigating that.
Q: What if it’s more indirect in the sense the Eritrean government is raising money in Canada, then using a portion of its budget to support Al-Shabab?
A: We have clear laws on this. We expect Canadians to respect those laws, and our law enforcement agencies to ensure they are applied. What I’m saying is that, generally, if there is any foreign government using intimidation to extract payments from Canadian citizens, that would be very disturbing to us.
Q: Eritrean-Canadians complain they have come to Canada as refugees to get away from the Eritrean regime, yet find themselves pressured to give money to the very government they had fled.
A: A point well taken. I would just encourage any Canadians to realize they have no obligation to a foreign government, that if they see any illegal conduct going on they should report it to the relevant law enforcement agencies, and they have no reason to be afraid of the activities of a foreign government in Canada. People who come here, particularly those fleeing persecution, enjoy Canada’s protection, and if in any way they’re being pressured by a government that was the source of their persecution, they should report that to the relevant authorities.

Hundreds of Refugees Held Hostage in Sinai Torture Camps Need Rescuing

Agenzia Habeshia - Italy  וו  Release Eritrea – United Kingdom
International Commission on Eritrean Refugees (ICER) – United States
Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) - Sweden
The America Team for Displaced Eritreans – United States
Physicians for Human Rights - Israel  וו  Hotline for Migrant Workers  - Israel

Hundreds of Refugees Held Hostage in Sinai Torture Camps Need Rescuing

Claims that a large number of refugees have been released from Sinai camps following media reports represents only a partial picture of the current situation on the ground. Human rights organizations worldwide have come together to publish up-to-date information in their possession which shows that the smuggling networks are still up and running and that hundreds of refugee hostages are being tortured by human traffickers in the Sinai.

For more than 18 months, the chilling evidence of horrors inflicted by human traffickers on refugees as they are on their way to Israel through the Sinai desert has been published and broadcast in Israel and throughout the world. During the past year, the organizations signed on this document have provided detailed information, systematically collected, regarding smuggling networks operating in the Sinai and beyond (Israel, Ethiopia, and Sudan) to influential bodies in the international arena including diplomats, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Amnesty International and the Israeli authorities. Despite these numerous appeals, and the concrete nature of the information that was transferred, the detention camps, the extortion, and the torture continue.

Throughout the past year, Israeli, American, and European human rights organizations have been in continuous contact with Eritrean and Sudanese refugees held in the torture camps in Sinai. Refugee hostages use cellular telephones provided by their captors to extort large sums of ransom money from their relatives and friends. Despite recent reports in the media regarding the release of hundreds of refugees held captive in the Sinai, and their arrival in Israel, it is apparent – from the information gathered by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Hotline for Migrant Workers in Israel, Agenzia Habeshia in Italy, Release Eritrea in the UK,  the International Commission on Eritrean Refugees (ICER), the America Team for Displaced Eritreans and the Swedish Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) – that hundreds of refugees are still being held captive in the Sinai, some of which are experiencing physical abuse, torture, systematic  rape, and even death, all with the objective to obtain tens of thousands of dollars in ransom money in exchange for their release. Heinous methods of torture and extortion, as previously reported, including in a recent report by Amnesty International include prolonged group bondage, electroshock, suspension by the limbs, burns from white-hot irons, starvation, severe sexual abuse, etc.

Information presented in this document shows that despite recent reports, the people smuggling, trafficking, and torture in the Sinai desert continue to operate as usual.

Updated Information on Groups Currently Held in Egypt

Group of Approximately 165 Hostages
On the 16th and 17th of November, 2011, rights organization The Hotline for Migrant Workers was contacted several times by 3 hostages that are part of a larger group of 165 Eritrean refugees currently being held hostage. According to their reports, they are under the control of a trafficker named Samieh, nicknamed Abu Musa, who leads a group of 8 smugglers in this compound. According to the prisoners, the group includes 13 women and 15 unaccompanied minors, ages 14 to 16. The group reports that they are not being held in Sinai but rather in a bunker in a secluded area north of the city of Mansoura, 120 kilometer north of Cairo and a 4 hour drive from Ismaila, Egypt.

According to the refugee held in the bunker, some of whom have been held hostage for several months, the smugglers beat and electroshock them as a way to pressure them into raising the ransom money. The male hostages have not left the bunker since they arrived, but every night the smugglers forcibly take the women outside and rape them. According to their reports, in the last week alone, 5 people have died by electrocution, among them one woman. On November 17th, they reported that an additional 2 refugees were electrocuted. They informed the Hotline for Migrant Workers that some of the hostages arrived at the compound after being sold to Samieh's group after paying large ransoms to other traffickers in separate locations. They are currently being ransomed for 30,000 dollars. The contact information for the refugee hostages in this camp can be provided by the organizations signed on this document.

Group of 59 Hostages
On the 17th of November, Father Mussie Zerai of the organization Ageniza Habeshia was contacted by several hostages that are part of a larger group of 59 Eritrean refugees, which include 8 women, 2 in late-term pregnancy. The refugees told Father Mussie Zerai and Swedish journalist Meron Estefanos, representative of the EMDHR organization, that the smugglers are demanding 23,000 dollars for the release of each one of the hostages. People from this group have repeatedly contacted Ms. Estefanos and have told her about one woman hostage who is 7 months pregnant and is in this Sinai compound after being kidnapped in Sudan by smugglers who then raped her many times. The smugglers in Sudan demanded 3,000 dollars for her release, and when she could not pay this money, she was sold to other smugglers. The current smugglers are demanding 23,000 dollars and have made it clear that if she does not come up with the money by the time of her delivery, she will be forced to pay an additional 23,000 dollars for the infant. On the 18th of November, Ms. Estefanos was informed that a 22 year-old male hostage from this group died by electrocution. According to information gathered by Father Mussie Zerai, two weeks ago 22 refugee hostages have joined this group.

The 59 hostages are being guarded and tortured by 4 smugglers. According to reports from the hostages, the smugglers are also led by a man named Samieh, nicknamed Abu Musa, meaning he is probably the same smuggler leading the group of 165 hostages described above. The group is supposedly being held hostage in a compound in the north of Sinai, not far from the city Rafah. Refugees reported that while they were outdoors, they heard aircraft engine sounds and saw lights from what appeared to be control towers, leading them to conclude that they are in proximity to an airfield. They report that alongside where they are being held are 3 luxurious houses, a large yard, and a tall tree. Two of the homes are striking in their appearance as they are painted red and constructed like a Chinese pagoda.

Group of 111 Hostages
On the 16th of November, additional hostages made contact with Meron Estefanos, from the EMDHR in Sweden. They report that on the 8th of November, they were transferred from Sudan to the Sinai by smugglers that are demanding 28,000 dollars in ransom from each person. According to the information gathered, this is a group held separately from the previous 2 groups and as of the time of publication their approximate whereabouts and information about their captors remain unknown.

Group of 17 Hostages
A Sudanese refugee from Darfur, currently residing in Israel, told a Physicians for Human Rights-Israel activist that he is in contact with a group of 17 Sudanese refugees, mostly from Darfur, that are currently being held in the Sinai. The smugglers, led by a man known as Mohammed (nicknamed Abdallah) from the Sawarka tribe, are torturing the refugees and demanding from each of them 5,200 dollars. The hostages report that they are being held near Al Jorra village, which is located 60 kilometers south of Sheikh Zewaid and 30 kilometers from Bagdad, Sinai. The 17 Sudanese refugees are the remaining hostages of a larger group that was released after they paid the ransom money. Some of the refugees released from this group are currently in Israel. The contact information of the smuggler can be obtained from the organizations.

370 Additional Refugees
A representative of the EMDHR received information that on the 12th of November 170 Eritreans and on the 15th of November another 200 Eritreans were transferred from Sudan to the Sinai.

Current Information about Smugglers and Collaborators

In testimonies collected by human rights organizations over the past year, the names of several prominent smugglers have been continuously repeated, among them, Abu Abdullah, Abu Musa, Abu Ali, Ibrahim, Khaled and Ahmed.

In the group of the 165 refugees that are currently being held in the area of Mansoura, Egypt by Abu Musa, the refugees reported that seven additional smugglers are guarding them, including Abu Musa’s bothers – Ali Hamed and Salim. The place is frequented by a smuggler named Abu Hamed; it is unclear whether this is an additional smuggler or Abu Musa’s brother, Ali Hamed. Refugees who were sold by Abu Hamed to Abu Musa informed us that Abu Hamed runs several additional chambers each holding dozens of refugees and they are located a few kilometers away from where they are currently being held. Reports collected by human rights groups indicate that Abu Musa works with the assistance of an Eritrean living in Israel. The Israeli police have been officially informed about this suspected cooperation.

Abu Abdullah is another smuggler that is continuously mentioned in refugee testimonies and is described as a large man in his mid-thirties that works with his brother out of Sinai. Abu Abdullah works closely with an Eritrean man nick-named Cornell who is responsible for collecting ransom money sent to Egypt by hostages' relatives and for managing a network of collaborators in Israel. According to victim's testimonies, these smugglers use Israeli cell phone numbers to be in contact with relatives of the hostages.

Additional testimonies collected by the organizations indicate that an Eritrean man named Angosom, based in Khartoum, Sudan, is responsible for kidnapping hundreds of Eritrean refugees from Shagarab and Kassala refugee camps in Sudan and from May Aini and Shimelba refugee camps in Ethiopia and then selling them to human traffickers in Egypt.

Over the past year, the Open Clinic of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel interviewed about 800 patients that arrived to Israel via the Sinai. 78% of interviewees[1] described being subjected to torture by smugglers that threatened them at gunpoint while locking them up in chains.

In addition to the horrid testimonies of torture and captivity, 39 people reported to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel that they were kidnapped by the smugglers and arrived at Israel against their will. On November 7, 2011, a Hotline for Migrant Worker's volunteer interviewed an Eritrean refugee who was held for six months until he managed to raise and pay the smugglers 10,000 dollars. He reported that he had no desire to go to Israel but that he was kidnapped in February 2011 in Kassala, Sudan along with another 84 Eritrean refugees. The refugee explained that while the group was on their way to Shagarab refugee camp, they were kidnapped and sold to smugglers who took them to the Sinai desert. Meron Estefanos, from the organization EMDHR, spoke to members of the kidnapped group and confirmed this report. In February 2011, Father Mussie Zerai from Agenzia Habeshia spoke to one of the hostages that reported being chained to an 11-year-old that recently had his arm broken by the smugglers. The child cried in pain but the smugglers refused to let him go. In the past two months, a few refugees from this group have arrived in Israel, after being tortured and held hostage for months and after gathering the ransom which ranged from a few thousand dollars to $35,000 per person from their families around the world. The fate of the 11 year old child, as well as the fate of many others, is unknown.

One week ago, Egyptian media reported about violent confrontations between tribes in central Sinai after accusations of being involved in trafficking of refugee organs. The media  claims that one of the main smugglers was killed during the fighting.

Information transferred to the Israeli authorities regarding collaborators with smuggling networks that are based in Israel

While the Israeli police do not have the mandate to directly investigate individuals that are suspected of committing crimes in Egyptian territory, the Israeli police are obligated to act regarding operatives that are based in Israel. The Israeli organizations who wrote this report have transferred a great deal of information about suspected criminals that collaborate with the human traffickers, by extorting and collecting ransom money inside of Israel. The activists in these organizations have even met several times with representatives in the relevant police unit. Eritrean refugees living in Israel joined these meetings, following requests by the organizations, and they provided valuable information about human trafficking operatives in Israel.  None of the suspected criminals have been detained by the police.

On December 12, 2010, activists from the Hotline for Migrant Workers managed to orchestrate the arrest of 2 Eritreans while they collected ransom money from a relative of a refugee held hostage. Even though the two were caught while conducting the transfer, they were soon released from prison and not put on trial. Inquiries from an Israeli human rights group as to whether charges will be pressed have yet to be answered.

On July 31, 2011, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and the Hotline for Migrant Workers sent a joint letter to the police with the phone numbers of 12 suspected collaborators living in Israel that are under suspicion of assisting the human traffickers in Sinai, as well as the license plate number of a car driven by of one of them. No reply has been received to this appeal.

On August 17, 2011, a Hotline for Migrant Workers staff member sent an e-mail to the Israeli police asking them to follow a suspect who was about to collect ransom money in Tel Aviv. Despite attempts to reach the relevant police unit via telephone, the ransom money was given to the suspect without the Israeli police being present during the transaction.

On September 5, 2011, two more complaints were filed with the Israeli police. The first complaint involved three refugees who were kidnapped from Israel and taken to Egypt (last week it was reported in Israel that one of the refugees had been killed and the other two are being kept in an Egyptian prison where they face deportation orders back to Eritrea). A relative of one of the kidnapped refugees who lives in Israel filed a complaint with the police. A second complaint was filed by an Eritrean refugee regarding the entry of an Eritrean smuggler into Israel who was involved in the torture and rape of refugees in Sinai. On the same day, an activist from Physicians for Human Rights-Israel provided the police with information about additional suspected collaborators that operate within Israel to help the human traffickers in the Sinai Peninsula.

On September 18, 2011 another complaint was filed by an Eritrean refugee regarding an Israeli citizen to whom he paid money in order to free his relative that was being held hostage in Sinai.

The organizations Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, Hotline for Migrant Workers, Agenzia Habeshia, International Commission on Eritrean Refugees, The America Team for Displaced Eritreans, Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights, and Release Eritrea call again on the Egyptian and Israeli authorities and the international community to act quickly in order to free the refugees held hostage in the Sinai, to prosecute the smugglers and those that assist them, to bring an immediate end to the torture camps and the network of human trafficking, and to provide care for the torture survivors.




For more information please contact:


Shahar Shoham- Physicians for Human Rights-Israel:


Sigal Rozen- Hotline for Migrants Workers:


john@eritreanrefugees.orgJohn Stauffer- The America Team for Displaced Eritreans:


 Dr. Yonas Mehari- ICER (International Commission on Eritrean Refugees:


 agenzia_habeshia@yahoo.itFather Mussie Zerai - Agenzia Habeshia Selam Kidane - Release Eritrea:

Meron Estefanos- EMDHR (Eritrean Movement for Democracy  and Human Rights):

[1] Based on 562 respondents.