sabato 9 marzo 2013

“Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child”

Statement by His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva at the 22nd  Session of the Human Rights Council
“Annual full-day meeting on the rights of the child”

Geneva, 7 March 2013

Mr. President,                                                                                              

My Delegation welcomes the focus on the Child’s Right to Health during this Annual Discussion. Allow me to call special attention to the situation of children living with HIV or with HIV/TB co-infection – a topic that could have received more extensive consideration in the Report of the High Commissioner in preparation for this important discussion.

Despite evidence that treatment is very successful in children living with HIV, even in resource-limited settings, there remain significant obstacles to expanding access for children living with HIV to such life-saving and life-enhancing treatment. In fact, only 28% of children living in low- and middle-income countries in need of highly active anti-retroviral treatment, or HAART, are currently able to benefit from such medications, compared with 50% of adults living with HIV who have access to ART.[1] As a result, 30 children under 15 years of age living with HIV die every hour.[2] For children living with both HIV and tuberculosis (TB), the situation is even worse; despite the fact that TB remains the main cause of death among children with AIDS, pediatric drug formulations are not available to treat HIV/TB co-infection in children.

One major barrier to treating children with HIV is the difficulty of detecting the infection in babies younger than 18 months. In high-income countries, children can be diagnosed accurately within 48 hours of birth. However, the specialized and sophisticated tests that permit such diagnosis among infants are not commonly available in low-income countries because they require expensive laboratory equipment and trained staff. Moreover, scale-up of testing programs for children requires investment in training and technical assistance for health care providers, improvement of laboratory capacity and facilities, and referral networks and community mobilization.

We know, of course, that 90% of HIV infection among children is transmitted from a mother who is living with the virus to her child while still in the womb, during the birth process, or during breastfeeding. Even though interventions are available to prevent the transmission of HIV from mother to child, approximately 330,000 children were newly infected with HIV during 2011[3], mainly through mother-to-child transmission.  If access to special programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission through early diagnosis of the mothers and through provision of anti-retroviral treatment to such mothers immediately upon diagnosis were increased, the number of children newly infected with HIV would soon decrease. Moreover, the immediate initiation of HAART among children born to HIV-positive mothers would delay the onset of HIV-related illnesses among such children.

Without adequate care and treatment, up to one third of all children born with HIV die before their first birthday, and half of them will die before they are two years old. Yet children treated with HAART, must take three or more different anti-retroviral drugs several times a day in order to avoid developing resistance to a single drug, and therefore to prevent the further progression of HIV disease. These medicines must be formulated differently than those for adults, and in a way that takes into consideration the climatic conditions in the areas in which they will be distributed and used. It also should be noted that, in many low-income settings, clean drinking water, adequate nutrition, and a continuous supply of electricity are not always available and can therefore further jeopardize the quality of treatment that a child can access. Indeed, an insufficient variety of formulations of antiretroviral medicines are available for specific use among children, “largely because the HIV medicine market for children was judged too small to warrant investments in such research[4].

Mr. President, the above-mentioned barriers thwart the ability of the child to enjoy and exercise his or her right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, recognized, inter alia, in the Convention on the Rights to the Child. My delegation speaks her not merely in an abstract or legalistic manner but on the basis of information and lived experience reported by Catholic Church-related organizations engaged in promoting and protecting the child’s right to health in every part of the world. A recent study conducted by the Catholic HIV/AIDS Network, an informal network of Catholic Church-related organizations engaged in providing financial and technical assistance support to HIV programs in developing countries reports significant engagement by such programs in efforts to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of the virus, to promote comprehensive and early diagnosis and treatment of those children who have been infected, and to confront the social stigma and ignorance that often obstructs the effective and efficient implementation of such programs. This report was discussed in a parallel event, held on 6 March 2013, in conjunction with the 22nd Session of this Council.

In an appeal on World AIDS Day 2012, Pope Benedict XVI noted with much urgency: “HIV/AIDS particularly affects the poorest regions of the world, where there is very limited access to effective medicines. My thoughts turn in particular to the large number of children who contract the virus from their mothers each year, despite the treatments which exist to prevent its transmission. I encourage the many initiatives that, within the scope of the ecclesial mission, have been taken in order to eradicate this scourge.”[5]

Mr. President, my Delegation sincerely hopes that this Council itself will appeal to the Member States of the United Nations to invest funds and collaborate closely with pharmaceutical companies and research institutes in order to preserve and advance the life and dignity of children living with HIV or with HIV/TB co-infection by providing them with available, affordable, and accessible diagnostic tools and medications and thereby assuring their full enjoyment of the right to health.

[1] UNAIDS, Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic, December2012
[2] UNAIDS Report, Together We Will End AIDS, July 2012.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Paediatric HIV: From a Human Rights Lens, Caritas Internationalis HAART for Children Newsletter, Issue 2, June 2012, Interview with Professor Daniel Tarantola.

giovedì 7 marzo 2013

Sinai, the horror of the slave market

Fr. Mussie Zerai

Seven years have already passed since the first complaints. But since then, it was 2006, the human trafficking in the Sinai did not know stops. Indeed, it has become increasingly prosperous. In the last three years in particular, there has been a genuine escalation, which added to the traffickers and their accomplices. Shedding the blood of hundreds, thousands of innocent people. These robbers did not spare even children and pregnant women, often forced to endure unspeakable violence and sexual abuse. But the leaders of the world have preferred to turn their backs in front of the poor, these "last of the last" taken hostage and enslaved.
E 'in November of 2010 that I began to deal with this real humanitarian emergency. I denounced the horror to the world through all the mass media, knocking on doors of embassies, governments, parliaments. Up to the Pope I was not alone in this battle. With me and the agency Habeshia have also undertaken other humanitarian organizations. All together we showed the international community that horrible tragedy that is unfolding in the Sinai desert, on the edge of the border between Egypt and Israel. But the powerful were deaf, obstinately deaf to the cries of pain of thousands of human beings. Thousands of new slaves ignored by all governments of the global North.
It 'a guilty indifference and absurd. For believers as non-believers. Just stop for a moment to reflect. "God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34; cf. Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6 Eph 6:9), since all men have the same dignity as creatures in His image and likeness." And the Incarnation of the Son of God manifest equality and the equal dignity of all men and women. "There is neither Jew nor greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28, cf. Rom 10.12; Cor 12:13, Col 3:11). It 'been a long and arduous battle of humanity to affirm these principles. In particular, in the twentieth century, the struggle for human and civil rights, anti-slavery, inequality, exploitation of man by man, the abuses. In contrast, in a word, the denial or suppression of human dignity. Decisive is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations on December 10, 1948: the starting point for a more just world and a better future, not surprisingly came in the aftermath of the immense bloodshed and the horrors of World War II.
Today, however, it all seems forgotten. Is positive, however, be permitted only everything that makes money. Even the traffic in human beings and organs for transplantation illegal. They do not talk of nothing but money and the economy, as if the value of human life runs out in the markets and in the bag. And the powers that have the responsibility to govern the planet seem to have forgotten that their primary role is to ensure the quality of life and the respect for human dignity. That at the center of the economy, there must be still a man. There is no future without the defense and affirmation of the common good.
It 'eloquent in this regard, even the Social Doctrine of the Church: "The responsibility to achieve the common good lies, as well as to individuals, even to the state, because the common good is the raison d'etre of political authority. The State, in fact, must ensure cohesion, unity and civil society organization which is expressed, so that the common good can be achieved with the contribution of all citizens. The individual man, the family, the intermediate bodies alone are not able to come from themselves to their full development, hence the need for political institutions, whose aim is to make available to people the goods necessary materials , cultural, moral, spiritual lead a truly human life. "
And here's the point, then. The governments of the countries in which we asked for help, to do everything possible to plead for the release of the hostages seized by the merchants of human beings, they have forgotten the common good. They do not want to understand that even the salvation of those poor people is the common good. It can not be the lives of over 65,000 people ended up in the hands of traffickers. But all is quiet, despite the constant, fearful signs that confirm every day this huge emergency. Like the more than three thousand young men and women, of whom all trace has been lost in Sinai vanished. Or the discovery, in the desert, so many graves where are the remains of hundreds of desperate people.
They are pursuing the common good, in particular, the governments of Egypt, Israel, Sudan, Eritrea. No one really mobilized to capture the merchants of death and put an end to this horrible crime. One wonders how many innocent people have to die before these countries and, more generally, the "powerful of the earth" feel the duty to defend and protect the lives and rights of these people. "Guilty" only to be displaced and refugees.

Hear every day crying and despair of the hostages and their families, it is a pain is the signal that injustice prevails, that human dignity is trampled upon, that human life is worth 30 to 60 thousand dollars, the ransom demanded by criminal organizations to liberate the captive prisoners. No one can remain silent in the face of all this. I'm going to appeal, then, to those who govern the fate of the planet: "Give us back our dignity. Give us back our freedom. Give us back the rights that our fathers, in 1948, writing the Universal Declaration, aimed at bringing all of us and for all of us. The international community gatherings moral strength of those men who have placed at the center of the goal and duty of the United Nations human beings and their fundamental rights. Today need that same energy to fight the horror that is bloodying the Sinai: a crime against humanity committed under the eyes of the international community. "
There are thousands, at this time, people at the mercy of traffickers. The boys are held captive in the desert and their families, overwhelmed by the need to put together in any way the ransom money. Men and women ended up in the maelstrom of a horrible tragedy while trying to escape war and persecution. They left their country looking to the North as "homeland" of freedom and human rights. The international community can not continue to look the other way.

Sinai, l’orrore del mercato di schiavi

di Mussie Zerai

Sono passati già sette anni dalle prime denunce. Ma da allora, era il 2006, il traffico di esseri umani nel Sinai non ha conosciuto soste. Anzi, è diventato sempre più fiorente. Negli ultimi tre anni, in particolare, c’è stata un’autentica escalation, che ha arricchito i trafficanti e i loro complici. Versando il sangue di centinaia, migliaia di innocenti. Questi predoni non hanno risparmiato neanche i bambini e le donne in stato di gravidanza, costretti spesso a subire violenze indicibili e abusi sessuali. Ma i potenti del mondo hanno preferito voltare le spalle di fronte ai poveri, a questi “ultimi degli ultimi” presi in ostaggio e ridotti in schiavitù.
E’ dal novembre del 2010 che ho cominciato a occuparmi di questa autentica emergenza umanitaria. Ne ho denunciato l’orrore al mondo intero attraverso tutti i mass media, bussando alle porte di ambasciate, governi, parlamenti. Fino al Papa. Non sono rimasto solo in questa battaglia. Con me e l’agenzia Habeshia l’hanno intrapresa anche altre organizzazioni umanitarie. Tutti insieme abbiamo mostrato alla comunità internazionale la tragedia orrenda che si sta consumando nel deserto del Sinai, ai bordi del confine tra Egitto ed Israele. Ma i potenti sono rimasti sordi, ostinatamente sordi, al grido di dolore di migliaia di esseri umani. Migliaia di nuovi schiavi ignorati da tutte le cancellerie del Nord del mondo.
E’ una indifferenza colpevole e assurda. Per i credenti come per i non credenti. Basta fermarsi un attimo a riflettere. “Dio non fa preferenze di persone (At 10,34; cfr. Rm 2,11; Gal 2,6; Ef 6,9), poiché tutti gli uomini hanno la stessa dignità di creature a Sua immagine e somiglianza”. E proprio l’incarnazione del Figlio di Dio manifesta l’uguaglianza e la pari dignità tra tutti gli uomini e le donne. “Non c’è più giudeo né greco; non c’è più schiavo né libero; non c’è più uomo né donna;poiché tutti voi siete uno in Cristo Gesù” (Gal 3,28; cfr. Rm 10,12; Cor 12,13; Col 3,11). E’ stata lunga e faticosa la battaglia dell’umanità per affermare questi principi. In particolare nel ventesimo secolo, con le lotte per i diritti umani e civili, contro la schiavitù, le diseguaglianze, lo sfruttamento dell’uomo sull'uomo  i soprusi. Contro, in una parola, la negazione e la soppressione della dignità umana. Decisiva appare la Dichiarazione universale dei diritti dell’uomo, proclamata dalle Nazioni Unite il 10 dicembre del 1948: la base di partenza per un mondo più giusto e un futuro migliore, non a caso arrivata all'indomani dell’immane massacro e degli orrori della seconda guerra mondiale.
Oggi, però, tutto questo sembra dimenticato. Appare positivo e comunque lecito soltanto tutto ciò che rende denaro. Persino il traffico di esseri umani e di organi per i trapianti clandestini. Non si parla d’altro che di soldi e di economia, come se il valore della vita umana si esaurisse nei mercati e nella borsa. E i poteri che hanno la responsabilità di governare il pianeta sembrano aver dimenticato che il loro ruolo primario è quello di garantire la vivibilità e il rispetto della dignità umana. Che al centro dell’economia deve esserci comunque l’uomo. Che non c’è futuro senza la difesa e l’affermazione del bene comune.
E’ eloquente, in proposito, anche la Dottrina Sociale della Chiesa: “La responsabilità di conseguire il bene comune compete, oltre che alle singole persone, anche allo Stato, poiché il bene comune è la ragion d’essere dell’autorità politica. Lo Stato, infatti, deve garantire coesione, unitarietà e organizzazione della società civile di cui è espressione, in modo che il bene comune possa essere conseguito con il contributo di tutti i cittadini. L’uomo singolo, la famiglia, i corpi intermedi da soli non sono in grado di pervenire da se stessi al loro pieno sviluppo; da ciò deriva la necessità di istituzioni politiche, la cui finalità è quella di rendere accessibili alle persone i beni necessari materiali, culturali, morali, spirituali per condurre una vita veramente umana”.
Ed ecco il punto, allora. I governi dei paesi a cui ci siamo rivolti per chiedere aiuto, per implorarli di fare tutto il possibile per la liberazione degli ostaggi sequestrati dai mercanti di esseri umani, si sono dimenticati del bene comune. Non vogliono capire che anche la salvezza di quella povera gente è il bene comune. Non può non esserlo la vita di oltre 65 mila persone finite nelle mani dei trafficanti. Ma tutto tace, nonostante i continui, paurosi segnali che confermano ogni giorno questa enorme emergenza. Come gli oltre tremila giovani, uomini e donne, di cui si è persa ogni traccia nel Sinai: svaniti nel nulla. O come la scoperta, nel deserto, di tante fosse comuni dove sono finiti i resti di centinaia di disperati.
Non stanno perseguendo il bene comune, in particolare, i governi di Egitto, Israele, Sudan, Eritrea. Nessuno si mobilita davvero per catturare i mercanti di morte e mettere fine a questo crimine orribile. C’è da chiedersi quanti innocenti debbano ancora morire prima che questi Paesi e, più in generale, i “potenti della terra” sentano il dovere di difendere e proteggere la vita e i diritti di queste persone. “Colpevoli” solo di essere profughi e rifugiati. 
Sentire ogni giorno il pianto e la disperazione degli ostaggi e delle loro famiglie, è uno strazio: è il segnale che l’ingiustizia trionfa, che la dignità umana viene calpestata, che la vita umana vale da 30 a 60 mila dollari, il riscatto preteso dalle organizzazioni criminali per liberare gli schiavi prigionieri. Nessuno può tacere di fronte a tutto questo. Torno a far appello, dunque, a chi governa le sorti del pianeta: “Restituiteci la nostra dignità. Restituiteci la nostra libertà. Restituiteci i diritti che i nostri padri, nel 1948, scrivendo la Dichiarazione Universale, hanno inteso dare a tutti noi e per tutti noi. La comunità internazionale ritrovi la forza morale di quegli uomini che hanno messo al centro del fine e del dovere delle Nazioni Unite l’uomo e i suoi diritti fondamentali. Oggi serve quella stessa energia per combattere l’orrore che sta insanguinando il Sinai: un crimine contro l’umanità commesso sotto gli occhi della comunità internazionale”.
Sono migliaia, in questo momento, le persone in balia dei trafficanti. Sono i ragazzi tenuti prigionieri nel deserto e le loro famiglie, travolte dalla necessità di mettere insieme in qualche modo i soldi del riscatto. Uomini e donne finiti nel gorgo di un dramma orrendo mentre cercavano di sfuggire a guerre e persecuzioni. Hanno lasciato il loro paese guardando al Nord del mondo come “patria” della libertà e dei diritti. La comunità internazionale non può continuare a voltarsi dall'altra parte.  

“Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography”

Statement by His Excellency Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva at the 22nd  Session of the Human Rights Council – Item 3 –
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography”

Geneva, 7 March 2013

Mr. President,
Far from abating, the scourge of human trafficking is growing and it becomes more diversified with the increase of human mobility and with the globalization of communication and trade. The focus on the sale, prostitution of children and child pornography by the latest Report of the Special Rapporteur underlines a global trend of human trafficking. The latest Report by the U.N. Office of Drugs and Crime on Human Trafficking (2012) paints a grim picture of the millions of people trafficked for sexual exploitation and forced labor: they come from at least 136 different nationalities and have been found in 118 countries. Although the majority of such persons are women (55-60 %), the flow of children is growing alarmingly quickly from 20% between 2003-2006 to 27% between 2007-2010. Among the total of trafficking cases identified globally, trafficking for sexual exploitation accounts for 58%.
The Report of the Special Rapporteur shows with accuracy how children can become victims of the sexual fantasies of adults. The phenomenon is certainly not new, but recently it has been unleashed by the liberalisation of sexual behaviour. Past and current studies have made it clear that the goal of traffickers is mainly economic. They seek to maximise their profit-making activities by using human beings as “commodities”. The international community is confronted with a criminal market that generates billions of dollars for the traffickers. When the risks of engaging in such activity are low, high profits become tempting. The Special Rapporteur’s Report shows that, in the case of trafficking children, risks are low in many ways and in many parts of the world. There is a clear need to update legislation, increase international and regional cooperation, share information and good practices, combat impunity and corruption, enhance judicial practices, care for the victims and provide ways to reintegrate them into a normal and dignified life in society.
Mr. President,
As in every market, the offer serves a demand. Child trafficking exists because there is a demand. To disrupt the market, we need to confront and fight the “consumers” who are willing to pay for the “services” of children. Such activities could be effectively prevented by enacting and implementing legislation that criminalizes the consumption of child pornography or the sexual abuse of a child.
Legal measures, however, are not enough. As the Report of the Special Rapporteur points out, prevention also should address the consumerist culture that stimulates and promotes the unhealthy and immature sexual desires that drive “consumers” to this market. Legitimate questions should be posed about why many tourists seek such “services” that cause such irreversible harm to children. Prevention should dare to ask what has happened to the tourist seeking that kind of “service”. How is the consumer market for sexual exploitation created in the first place? If the understanding of individual freedom rejects the ethical boundaries imposed by nature itself, the trafficking of persons and the violation of their innate dignity will continue to occur, and the action of the State will be ineffective.
The persistent economic crisis, current wars and civil conflicts, the high prices of food, famine, abject poverty and migration, political upheavals, failed States, these are as many opportunities for human traffickers to prey upon vulnerable victims. The predator practice of traffickers feeds on the weakest, people already in need and therefore easy to kidnap, enslave and reduce to “commodities”. A concrete example of human trafficking is the ring operating in the Horn of Africa and the Sinai region: it offers a “real-life”  sample of the cycle of abuse that is unleashed by trafficking of human persons. To prevent this scourge we must reinforce human security and address the root causes that make people vulnerable. To combat this trade is to discourage criminal groups from seeking out and exploit innocent victims.
Mr. President,
Among the shocking practices of human trafficking, the case of children requires special and urgent attention and action on both humanitarian and moral grounds. Identifying survivors, providing them support, preparing them for a productive life free of traumas and developing an effective prosecution of traffickers are the joint tasks of the private and public sectors of society. Victims, however, will find real protection if the prevention task is taken seriously by changing a culture that justifies their exploitation and tolerates with impunity the violation of human security, a breeding ground of human vulnerability.
Pope John Paul II, in a Letter on the occasion of the International Conference on “21st Century Slavery—the Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings,” stated that human trafficking “constitutes a shocking offense against human dignity and a grave violation of fundamental human rights. In particular, the sexual exploitation of women and children is an especially repugnant aspect of this trade, and must be recognized as an intrinsic violation of human dignity and human rights.”[1]

[1] Pope John Paul II, Letter to Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran on the Occasion of the International Conference on 21st Century Slavery—the Human Rights Dimension to Trafficking in Human Beings, May 15, 2002.

mercoledì 6 marzo 2013

The tragedy of the young Eritrean Crotone: an indictment against Italy

Emilio Drudi

It 'was a death foretold. The death of a young man fled war and persecution in Eritrea to seek freedom and a better tomorrow in Italy. But in Italy he found instead misunderstanding, closing, hostility: the denial of their rights of every human being. So he gave up and decided to call it quits.
It 's the story of a boy of 32 years came as thousands of other desperate, on a cart full of humanity and pushed through the Strait of Sicily more by good fortune than by the force of its engines run down. Once landed, followed the bureaucratic ordeal of endless investigations, until he wound up in the refugee camp of Crotone Sant'Anna, one of the Italian reception centers more challenged by humanitarian organizations, where there have been numerous riots and where the episodes of despair and self-harm among the guests are frequent. It 'been there for months. A number among many other numbers, abandoned in a cruel limbo of uncertainty, without any form of insertion and without anyone to help him at least to hope. Then, finally, its application for international protection was examined and received: received refugee status and is able to get out. Crossed the gates, however, it has been found in front of the vacuum. A huge gap, which proved to be unbridgeable. Without a complete lack of perspective: marginalization, no job opportunities, no home (much to bear an official "homeless") if not the refuge of luck that he managed to get along with other refugees in Isola Capo Rizzuto, not far from the hostel. But a vacuum, especially in the depths of the heart, with the collapse of every confidence in the future. In a country that people like maybe he welcomes them, but then does not allow anything.
It 'the same vacuum that veils the eyes of thousands of other players desperate to escape from the South, "invisible" of which the Italian state has forgotten, leaving them on the street, at the same time which gave them residence permits . "Do not people", to have at least a roof, they are forced to occupy empty buildings and crumbling urban peripheries or popular slums and shanty towns on the outskirts of the city, along the banks of rivers, dusty dirt roads. Desperate people without rights, ignored by all but to remember it when you need to hire arms in black cheap through intermediaries and exploiters.
That guy did not leave a message to explain his act. Not a word of protest or accusation. If they have just left, choosing to die in silence, not far from the camp from which he had just come out. But his silence is deafening. Screams that killed him was just emptiness that many people have helped to create. For example, the bureaucracy ground that it is always and only a number rather than a person. The hostility of the bottom of a policy of welcoming hypocritical: expensive but ineffective and deaf to the real needs and rights of those who should be even better. People who do not indignant in the face of a tragedy so obvious and indeed often watch these desperate with annoyance, suspicion, enmity. And he will not listen to them. Killed him, in a word, the indifference in which you lose the cry for help that rises from the southern hemisphere with the voice and the stories of this guy Eritrean and thousands and thousands of young men like him, men and women .
In recent days, the Italian government has added a chapter to the story of indifference decreeing the official end of the declared crisis in the spring of 2011, when we had to cope with the exodus of a huge crowd of refugees from North Africa, ravaged by wars and revolutions. The result is the "all out" from shelters opened about two years ago. So, after they have been dispelled one billion and 300 million for parking refugees in hotels, inns, lodging houses, makeshift structures, the problem remains open. At least 13,000 migrants were thrown on the street, men, women, sometimes whole families with children, who should have followed training and placement, learn Italian, go to school, acquire the "tools" to integrate into society . And that, however, were mostly forced to "grow", unable to build any prospect of life. From beginning to end, in fact, only and always numbers. Available for all forms of exploitation. A "nuisance" that the State plan to solve a humanitarian residence permit valid for one year, a "golden handshake" of 500 euro one-off and a ticket travel. But many do not even know where to go, all the more so, since the vast majority of victims of political persecution, the way home is unthinkable. Unless you want them delivered to the prison and to death. As a result, ultimately, to further swell the mass of the "invisible" that crowd the slums and squatter buildings in the suburbs. It is no coincidence Soumahoro Aboubakar, the national coordinator of Trade Unions of immigration Base expects "day of terror for refugees and asylum seekers in Italy", in a statement to the newspaper La Stampa, said "the refusal of EUR 500 per protest against a policy that does not protect those who flee from war and misery. "
The terrible death of the boy Eritrean Crotone complaint throughout this enormous humanitarian emergency unheard. It is significant that, just taking a cue from his tragedy, Laurens Jolles, Delegate for Southern Europe of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, have asked to reflect "on repeat, in recent weeks, with dramatic gestures of desperation on the part of people seeking protection in Italy. " He added: "Thousands of people, but received international protection, living in Italy in conditions of hardship and deprivation. This is why the refugee agency hopes that the new Italian government has the power to deal with the political and moral support issues and integration, ensuring to persons fleeing war and persecution the effective enjoyment of their rights " .
Because there are never more graves of children on which to write: "Killed by indifference." But the political agenda of all parliamentary groups just elected the rights found no place. Or, at best, secondary care chapters, which do not inflame the debate and people's attention.

La tragédie de la jeune Erythréen Crotone: un acte d'accusation contre l'Italie

Emilio Drudi

Il a été une mort annoncée. La mort d'un jeune homme ont fui la guerre et de la persécution en Erythrée pour chercher la liberté et un avenir meilleur en Italie. Mais en Italie, il a trouvé la place malentendu, la fermeture, l'hostilité: le déni de leurs droits de chaque être humain. Ainsi, il a renoncé et a décidé d'en rester là.
C'est l'histoire d'un garçon de 32 ans est venu comme des milliers d'autres désespérés, sur une charrette pleine d'humanité et poussé à travers le détroit de Sicile plus par chance que par la force de ses moteurs tournent vers le bas. Une fois posé, suivie de l'épreuve bureaucratique des enquêtes interminables, jusqu'au moment où il s'est retrouvé dans le camp de réfugiés de Crotone Sant'Anna, l'un des centres d'accueil italiens plus contestées par les organisations humanitaires, où il ya eu de nombreuses émeutes et où les épisodes de désespoir et de automutilation parmi les invités sont fréquents. Il est là depuis des mois. Un certain nombre parmi beaucoup d'autres nombres, abandonné dans un vide cruel d'incertitude, sans aucune forme d'insertion et sans personne pour l'aider au moins à espérer. Puis, enfin, sa demande de protection internationale a été examiné et a reçu: le statut de réfugié a reçu et est en mesure de sortir. Franchi les portes, cependant, il a été trouvé en face du vide. Un écart énorme, qui s'est avéré être infranchissable. Sans une absence totale de perspective: la marginalisation, pas de possibilités d'emploi, pas de maison (lourd à porter un fonctionnaire «sans-abri») si ce n'est pas le refuge de la chance qu'il a réussi à s'entendre avec les autres réfugiés à Isola Capo Rizzuto, non loin de l'auberge. Mais le vide, en particulier dans les profondeurs du cœur, avec l'effondrement de toute confiance en l'avenir. Dans un pays que les gens aiment peut-être qu'il les accueille, mais ne permet pas de quoi que ce soit.
C 'est la même dépression que les voiles les yeux de milliers d'autres joueurs désespérés pour échapper du Sud, «invisible» dont l'Etat italien a oublié, les laissant dans la rue, dans le même temps qui leur a donné un permis de séjour . "Ne pas les gens", d'avoir au moins un toit, ils sont obligés d'occuper des bâtiments vides et délabrées périphéries urbaines ou dans des taudis et des bidonvilles populaires à la périphérie de la ville, le long des berges des rivières, des chemins de terre poussiéreux. Les gens désespérés sans droits, ignorés par tous, mais de s'en souvenir lorsque vous avez besoin d'embaucher des armes à pas cher noir par des intermédiaires et des exploiteurs.
Ce mec n'a pas laissé un message pour expliquer son acte. Pas un mot de protestation ou de l'accusation. Si ils ont juste à gauche, en choisissant de mourir en silence, non loin du camp d'où il venait de sortir. Mais son silence est assourdissant. Cris qui l'a tué était juste vide que de nombreuses personnes ont contribué à créer. Par exemple, le sol bureaucratie qu'il est toujours et seulement un nombre plutôt qu'une personne. L'hostilité du fond d'une politique d'accueil des hypocrites: cher mais inefficace et sourd aux besoins réels et les droits de ceux qui devraient être encore mieux. Les gens qui n'ont pas s'indigner face à une tragédie si évident et bien souvent regarder ces désespérée avec agacement, la méfiance, l'hostilité. Et il ne sera pas les écouter. Tué, en un mot, l'indifférence dans laquelle vous perdez l'appel à l'aide qui s'élève de l'hémisphère sud avec la voix et les histoires de ce type érythréenne et des milliers et des milliers de jeunes hommes comme lui, les hommes et les femmes .
Ces derniers jours, le gouvernement italien a ajouté un chapitre à l'histoire de l'indifférence décrétant la fin officielle de la crise déclarée au printemps de 2011, lorsque nous avons eu à faire face à l'exode d'une foule immense de réfugiés en provenance de l'Afrique du Nord, ravagé par les guerres et les révolutions. Le résultat est le «all out» des abris ouvert il ya deux ans. Donc, après avoir été dissipé un milliard et 300 millions pour les réfugiés de stationnement dans les hôtels, auberges, maisons d'hébergement, les structures de fortune, le problème reste ouvert. Au moins 13.000 migrants ont été jetés dans la rue, des hommes, des femmes, des familles entières, parfois avec des enfants, qui auraient dû suivre une formation et de placement, apprendre l'italien, aller à l'école, d'acquérir les «outils» pour s'intégrer dans la société . Et que, cependant, étaient pour la plupart obligés de "grandir", incapables de construire une perspective de vie. Du début à la fin, en effet, seulement et toujours des chiffres. Disponible pour toutes les formes d'exploitation. Un «nuisance» que le plan d'Etat pour résoudre un séjour humanitaire de séjour valable un an, un "parachute doré" de 500 euros ponctuelles et un voyage billet. Mais beaucoup ne savent même pas où aller, d'autant plus que, puisque la grande majorité des victimes de la persécution politique, le chemin du retour est impensable. Sauf si vous voulez les faire livrer à la prison et à la mort. En conséquence, à terme, de continuer à gonfler la masse de «l'invisible» qui s'entassent dans les bidonvilles et les bâtiments de squatters dans les banlieues. Il n'est pas un hasard Soumahoro Aboubakar, le coordinateur national des syndicats de base immigration prévoit "jour de terreur pour les réfugiés et demandeurs d'asile en Italie", dans une déclaration à la Stampa, a déclaré: «le refus de 500 euros par protester contre une politique qui ne protège pas ceux qui fuient la guerre et la misère. "
La mort terrible de la plainte Crotone garçon érythréen tout au long de cette situation d'urgence humanitaire énorme inouïe. Il est significatif que, tout en s'inspirant de sa tragédie, Laurens Jolles, délégué pour l'Europe du Sud de la Commission des Nations Unies pour les réfugiés, ont demandé de réfléchir "sur la répétition, ces dernières semaines, avec des gestes dramatiques de désespoir de la part des personnes en quête de protection en Italie. " Il a ajouté: «Des milliers de personnes, mais a reçu une protection internationale, vivant en Italie dans des conditions difficiles et des privations. C'est pourquoi l'agence pour les réfugiés espère que le nouveau gouvernement italien a le pouvoir de régler les problèmes de soutien politique et moral et de l'intégration, garantir aux personnes qui fuient la guerre et la persécution de la jouissance effective de leurs droits " .
Parce qu'il n'y a jamais plus de tombes d'enfants sur lesquels écrivent: "Tué par l'indifférence." Mais l'agenda politique de tous les groupes parlementaires viennent d'élire les droits ne trouva aucun lieu. Ou, au mieux, des chapitres de soins secondaires, qui ne sont pas enflammer le débat et l'attention des gens.

22nd Session of the Human Rights Council – Item 3

Statement by H. E. Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi
Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva at the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council – Item 3 –
Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief”

Geneva, 6th March 2013
Mr. President,
In today’s world, because of their faith or belief, persons belonging to religious minorities experience various degrees of abuse that run from physical attacks to kidnapping for ransom, from arbitrary detention and obstacles in requesting registration, to stigmatization. Effective protection of the human rights of persons belonging to religious minorities is lacking or inadequately addressed even in the U.N. and international systems. Lately this worrying situation has caught the attention of some Governments and segments of civil society. Thus awareness about this serious problem has become more evident. On the other hand, widespread discrimination affecting religious minorities persists and even increases.
The Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has rightly focused his Report on the many human rights violations perpetrated against persons belonging to religious minorities. States may be directly involved through indifference toward some of their citizens or through the political will to marginalize, suppress or even eliminate communities with a different identity no matter how long they historically have been rooted in their own country. In some circumstances, non-State actors also take an active and even violent role by attacking religious minorities. The extensive indication of the variety of violations reported offers a realistic picture of today’s oppression of religious minorities and should serve as a call to action.
However, the Report underplays the basic issue that minorities are defined either from the perspective of a “majority” or from the perspective of other “minorities”. Moreover, according to the Report the State should act in a neutral way in the recognition of religious groups. Indeed, the Report defines individual persons as holders of the right to freedom of religion and sees the goal of protection of religious freedom directed at “ensuring the survival and continued development of the cultural, religious and social identity of the minorities concerned[1]. It indicates individual protection of religious freedom as the way to achieve the protection of religious communities, a process that will not translate automatically in their protection. In fact, the Report itself shows very well that most violations of religious freedom occur at the religious group level.
While the State should enforce the universality of human rights by balancing freedom and equality, it often identifies itself with the “dominant community” in a way that unfortunately relegates minorities to a second class status, thus also creating problems for the religious freedom of individuals.
Individual freedoms and rights can be reconciled and harmonized with those of the community that wants to preserve its identity and integrity. There is no opposing dialectical process, but a necessary complementarity. The person should not become a prisoner of the community nor should the community become vulnerable simply because of the assertion of individual freedom. The Special Rapporteur rightly states that by stressing too narrow an understanding of equality, we may lose the diversity and specificity of freedom.
The legal recognition of a minority is the starting point for the necessary harmony between individual and group freedom. By adopting such a realistic approach to this issue the coexistence of communities is facilitated in a climate of relative tolerance. However, before such a realistic approach can be pursued, legal status must be granted to religious communities as is required by the innate human right of any person, which precedes and is binding on the State. We fully agree then with the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation: “What the State can and should do is create favourable conditions for persons belonging to religious minorities to ensure that they can take their faith related affairs in their own hands in order to preserve and further develop their religious community life and identity” [2]. Only through respect for this balance can both peaceful coexistence and the advancement of all human rights be attained.
The State’s role as guardian and enforcer of the freedom of religion not only for individuals but also for religious communities reveals that this balance is highly political. The secular State often is not neutral toward existing religious communities; not even in Western democracies where liberalism leads not so much to a neutral society but to one without a public presence of religion. But the State can preserve a religious identity provided it acts with neutrality and justice toward all religious groups in its territory. It can be added that the State should monitor violations of freedom of conscience and the Rapporteur should address in this connection conscientious objection when it becomes impossible for a person to conform to the dominant social norms that are in contrast with moral dictates.
Mr President,
Religions are communities based on faith or belief, and their freedom guarantees a contribution of moral values without which the freedom of everyone is not possible. The recognition of the freedom of other religious communities does not reduce one’s own freedoms. On the contrary, the acceptance of the religious freedom of other persons and groups is the corner stone of dialogue and collaboration. Genuine freedom of religion bans violence and coercion, and it opens the road to peace and authentic human development through mutual recognition. The experience, and by now a tradition, of interreligious dialogue in Western societies proves the value of a reciprocal recognition of religious freedom.
Religious freedom is also a duty, a responsibility to be fulfilled both by individuals and religious groups. The recognition of the religious freedom of individuals and social groups implies that they should act by the same standards of the freedom they enjoy and such a condition justifies their presence as important and authentic actors in the public square. To eclipse the public role of religion creates a society which is unjust since it would fail to take into account the true nature of the human person and would stifle the growth of authentic and lasting peace for the whole human family.

[1] Human Rights Committee, General Comment No 23 (1994) on the right of minorities (article 27), §9.
[2] A/HRC/22/51. Summary. 

La tragedia del giovane eritreo a Crotone: un atto di accusa contro l’Italia

di Emilio Drudi

E’ stata una morte annunciata. La morte di un giovane fuggito dalla guerra e dalla persecuzione in Eritrea per cercare la libertà e un domani migliore in Italia. Ma che in Italia ha trovato invece incomprensione, chiusura, ostilità: la negazione dei diritti propri di ogni essere umano. Così si è arreso e ha deciso di farla finita.
E’ la storia di un ragazzo di 32 anni arrivato, come migliaia di altri disperati, su una carretta carica di umanità e spinta attraverso il canale di Sicilia più dalla buona sorte che dalla forza dei suoi motori malandati. Una volta sbarcato, ha seguito il calvario burocratico di accertamenti infiniti, sino a finire nel campo profughi di Crotone Sant’Anna, uno dei centri di accoglienza italiani più contestati dalle organizzazioni umanitarie, dove ci sono state numerose rivolte e dove gli episodi di disperazione e autolesionismo tra gli ospiti sono frequenti. E’ rimasto lì per mesi. Un numero tra tantissimi altri numeri, abbandonato in un limbo di incertezza crudele, senza alcuna forma di inserimento e senza che qualcuno lo aiutasse almeno a sperare. Poi, finalmente, la sua domanda di protezione internazionale è stata esaminata ed accolta: ha ottenuto lo status di rifugiato ed è potuto uscire. Varcati i cancelli, tuttavia, si è trovato di fronte il vuoto. Un vuoto enorme, che si è rivelato incolmabile. Fatto di totale mancanza di prospettive: emarginazione, nessuna possibilità di lavoro, niente casa (tanto da figurare ufficialmente un “senza fissa dimora”) se non il rifugio di fortuna che era riuscito a procurarsi, insieme ad altri profughi, ad Isola Capo Rizzuto, poco lontano dal centro di accoglienza. Ma un vuoto, soprattutto, nel profondo del cuore, con il crollo di ogni fiducia nel futuro. In un Paese che quelli come lui magari li accoglie, ma poi non gli consente nulla.
E’ lo stesso vuoto che vela lo sguardo di migliaia di altri protagonisti di fughe disperate dal Sud del mondo, “invisibili” dei quali lo Stato italiano si è dimenticato, abbandonandoli per strada, nel momento stesso in cui ha consegnato loro i documenti di soggiorno. “Non persone” che, per avere almeno un tetto, sono costrette ad occupare palazzi vuoti e cadenti nelle periferie urbane o a popolare bidonville e baraccopoli ai margini delle città, lungo gli argini dei fiumi, negli sterrati polverosi. Disperati senza diritti, ignorati da tutti, salvo a ricordarsene quando servono braccia in nero da ingaggiare a buon mercato attraverso caporali e sfruttatori.
Quel ragazzo non ha lasciato messaggi per spiegare il suo gesto. Neanche una parola di protesta o di accusa. Se ne è andato e basta, scegliendo di morire in silenzio, poco lontano dal campo profughi dal quale era uscito da poco. Ma il suo è un silenzio assordante. Urla che ad ucciderlo è stato proprio quel vuoto che in tanti hanno contribuito a  creare. Ad esempio, la burocrazia che lo ha considerato sempre e solo un numero anziché una persona. L’ostilità di fondo di una politica di accoglienza ipocrita: costosissima ma inefficace e sorda alle esigenze reali e ai diritti di chi dovrebbe giovarsene. La gente che non si indigna di fronte a un dramma così evidente ed anzi guarda spesso a questi disperati con fastidio, sospetto, inimicizia. E non vuole ascoltarli. Lo ha ucciso, in una parola, l’indifferenza in cui si perde il grido d’aiuto che sale dal Sud del mondo con la voce e le storie di questo ragazzo eritreo e di altre migliaia e migliaia di giovani come lui, uomini e donne.
Nei giorni scorsi il governo italiano ha aggiunto un capitolo a questa storia di indifferenza decretando la fine ufficiale della crisi dichiarata nella primavera del 2011, quando bisognava fronteggiare l’esodo di una folla enorme di profughi dal Nord Africa, sconvolto da guerre e rivoluzioni. La conseguenza è il “fuori tutti” dai centri di accoglienza aperti circa due anni fa. Così, dopo che sono stati dissipati un miliardo e 300 milioni per parcheggiare i rifugiati in alberghi, pensioni, case alloggio, strutture improvvisate, il problema resta aperto. Almeno 13 mila migranti sono stati buttati per strada: uomini, donne, a volte intere famiglie con i bambini, che avrebbero dovuto seguire percorsi formativi e di inserimento, imparare l’italiano, andare a scuola, acquisire gli “strumenti” per integrarsi nella società. E  che, invece, sono stati per lo più costretti a “vegetare”, senza riuscire a costruirsi alcuna prospettiva di vita. Dall’inizio alla fine, insomma, solo e sempre numeri. Disponibili per ogni forma di sfruttamento. Un “fastidio” che lo Stato pensa di risolvere con un permesso di soggiorno umanitario valido per un anno, una “buonuscita” di 500 euro una tantum e un ticket di viaggio. Ma molti non sanno nemmeno dove andare, tanto più che, trattandosi nella grande maggioranza di perseguitati politici, la via del rimpatrio è addirittura impensabile. A meno di non volerli consegnare alla galera e alla morte. Con il risultato, in definitiva, di ingrossare ulteriormente la massa degli “invisibili” che affollano le baraccopoli e i palazzi occupati abusivamente nelle periferie. Non a caso Soumahoro Aboubakar, il responsabile nazionale immigrazione dell’Unione Sindacale di Base si aspetta “giorni di terrore per i profughi e i richiedenti asilo in Italia” e, in una dichiarazione al quotidiano La Stampa, ha annunciato “il rifiuto dei 500 euro per protesta contro una politica che non tutela chi fugge da guerre e miseria”.
La terribile fine di quel ragazzo eritreo a Crotone denuncia tutta questa enorme emergenza umanitaria inascoltata. Ed è significativo che, proprio prendendo spunto dalla sua tragedia, Laurens Jolles, delegato per il Sud Europa del Commissariato ONU per i rifugiati, abbia invitato a riflettere “sul ripetersi, nelle ultime settimane, di drammatici gesti di disperazione da parte di persone in cerca di protezione in Italia”. Ed ha aggiunto: “Migliaia di persone, pur avendo ottenuto una protezione internazionale, vivono in Italia in condizioni di disagio e degrado. Per questo l’Agenzia per i rifugiati auspica che il prossimo governo italiano abbia la forza politica e morale per affrontare i problemi relativi all'assistenza e all'integrazione  garantendo alle persone che fuggono da guerre e persecuzioni l’effettivo godimenti dei loro diritti”.
Perché non ci siano mai più tombe di ragazzi sulle quali dover scrivere: “Ucciso dall'indifferenza”. Ma nell'agenda politica di tutti i gruppi parlamentari appena eletti la difesa dei diritti non ha trovato posto. O, al più, occupa capitoli secondari, che non infiammano il dibattito e l’attenzione della gente.

sabato 2 marzo 2013

Ruthless Kidnapping Rings Reach From Desert Sands to U.S. Cities - Ruthless Kidnapping Rings Reach From Desert Sands to U.S. Cities

CAMPBELL, Calif.—Ande Zerasion's voice chokes up reliving the sound of his daughter pleading for help: "Baba, I am in Sinai. Please call me."
It was early October, recalls Mr. Zerasion, a 35-year-old refugee from the tiny African country of Eritrea who emigrated here five years ago but had been forced to leave his family behind. Escaping the country with her uncle, his 14-year-old daughter, Samhar, had tried to follow a similar path to freedom. But the two had vanished in August and kidnappers had contacted Mr. Zerasion's brother in Tel Aviv, demanding $80,000 for their lives.

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It was the kind of money Mr. Zerasion, a nursing home attendant and widower in this San Jose suburb, didn't have. It was also his introduction to a nightmare world of international extortion.

In this world, he knew that the smugglers, a linked network of nomadic North African tribes, had become more sophisticated and cruel with Eritrean refugees, requiring many to leave pleas on answering machines, as his daughter had. "I was scared," he says. "Many people are (held) four or five months in Sinai. We see on the Internet the bodies, no food, no medication. They die."

To the outside world, Eritrea is a little-known sliver of Red Sea coastline above the Horn of Africa. But refugees fleeing its single-party regime have become the primary victims of what human rights groups say is one the world's more elusive and terrifying kidnapping rings. The refugees are typically captured as they cross Eritrea's border, then trafficked into regions of Egypt's Sinai peninsula that are virtually lawless, creating an open season for smugglers who hold victims while extorting family members in Africa, Europe and the U.S.
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Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal
'Many people are [held] four or five months in Sinai. We see on the Internet the bodies, no food, no medication. They die,' said Ande Zerasion, whose daughter was kidnapped after fleeing Eritrea.

Just how many Eritreans have been kidnapped isn't known, in part because the global nature of the extortion has limited the ability of any law enforcement authority to track it. But according to a joint study by the Physicians for Human Rights and the Hotline for Migrant Workers, two Israeli nonprofits that run clinics treating victims, an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 Eritrean refugees who arrived in that country in the past three years had been tortured. Another 4,000 Eritreans have disappeared and many are presumed dead, according to testimony for the European Union.

Victims recount long periods of captivity in desert compounds where, after being forced to conduct phone-a-thons for their lives, they endure beatings, rape and grisly forms of torture.

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Ed Giles for The Wall Street Journal
Samhar Zerasion, Ande's 14-year-old daughter, lives in an apartment in Cairo now, after being held captive for more than three months.

The problem is "heartbreaking, especially as it has escaped the world's attention and scrutiny," said Eric Schwartz, who until 2011 was U. S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration. Now the dean of the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs, he said he has worked on human rights issues for more than 25 years. "But I have rarely if ever heard about abuses as dreadful as those perpetrated against migrants by these smugglers."

With few official accounts on the kidnappings emerging, The Wall Street Journal spent more than a year tracking down victims and families who have migrated as far away as Sweden and Texas, as well as visiting neighborhoods in Tel Aviv and Cairo where survivors congregate. Some victims, told to give out cellphone numbers by their captors, were interviewed while they were being held.

At the heart of the kidnapping is Eritrea itself, a country that has generated a steady exodus since separating from Ethiopia two decades ago. Run by the same regime since its independence, the country has been denounced by United Nations officials for systematic repression, which refugees say includes religious persecution, frequent use of the death penalty, and a military conscription program that can last for decades and amount to forced labor. A 2010 State Department report accused the military of keeping troops on "indefinite" service to operate mines, beach resorts and other businesses.

The accusations have been denied by the Eritrean government. Tesfamariam Tekeste, its ambassador in Israel, dismissed them as foreign "propaganda" that has contributed to the exodus. The extended military service is a "temporary issue," he said, needed to defend Eritrea's borders.

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Meron Estefanos, a human rights activist based in Sweden, shows torture wounds she says one victim endured.

But according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, some 250,000 Eritreans have fled the country, about half in the past 10 years, which places the country ninth in the top 10 source countries of refugees. "The country is hemorrhaging human capital," said Tricia Hepner, a specialist on the Horn of Africa at the University of Tennessee. " The scale of displacement is comparable to what you'd see in famine or civil war."

Ironically, the path to a free life for most Eritreans has been hampered for the past two years by a different freedom effort—the Arab Spring—in North Africa. Until then, Eritreans who illegally escaped the country crossed Sudan and entered Egypt, Tunisia or Libya to reach Mediterranean-based smugglers who ferry asylum-seekers to Europe. But with these traditional routes cut off by the region's turmoil, what was once a relatively safe and cheap passage is now neither.

Instead, awaiting the refugees in transit, say diplomats familiar with the region, are nomadic tribes of Rashaida, a loose confederation of centuries-old clans who can be found on both sides of the Red Sea. Experienced traffickers of goods and people, the clans typically sell the refugees to Bedouin tribes operating in the Sinai, who then seek out expatriates who have become successful immigrants in Europe and North America. Often, those relatives have rarely seen or barely know the victims.

"They were calling me. They said they would kill him," said Woldeyesus Wube, an airline mechanic from Fairfield, Calif., with an 18-year-old nephew captured two years ago while fleeing Eritrea. Ultimately, he said, the nephew was released after he paid them $15,000. "I heard the crying. He said he was being beaten."
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"They were calling me. They said they would kill him," said Woldeyesus Wube, an airline mechanic from Fairfield, Calif., with an 18-year-old nephew captured two years ago while fleeing Eritrea. Ultimately, he said, the nephew was released after he paid $15,000.

Victims whose family and friends are unable to raise the ransom are often never heard from again and presumed dead. According to one Egyptian human rights group, about 100 bodies of refugees who perished in the desert were sent to the central morgue in the Sinai city of El-Arish last year. Almost all were Eritreans, and human rights workers say that count may be a fraction of the total killed. Websites following the kidnappings frequently display photos of mutilated bodies found in shallow graves.

Those who have survived their kidnappings describe in similar detail an ordeal of being trafficked from one clan to another, before being deposited inside a compound. There, the captives are forced to use their kidnappers' cellphones to try to spread the word of how they can be reached, in a macabre form of marketing that has gone viral among various Eritreans communities across the globe.

"The kidnappers encourage this, they want the phone numbers in circulation," said Meron Estefanos, an Eritrean human rights activist based in Stockholm. Through a radio program she produces, she has been reconnecting captives with their families, but laments that the smugglers' tactics have led to skyrocketing ransom fees. Clans that asked for $2,000 to $3,000 a person several years ago are demanding now as much as $40,000, according to families who have been making payments.

Using one of the cell numbers, a Journal reporter last year contacted one victim, who identified herself as Semhar Malke Tesfay, an 18-year-old Eritrean, as she was being held. Ms. Tesfay said she was "traded" no less than eight times among different clans before arriving six months earlier at a Sinai camp, with eight other captives. One of them, she said, was later shot and another beaten to death. Each was regularly tortured to create background sound effects during cell calls; among the most grisly forms involved pouring melted plastics from bags onto victims' backs. "When your family says they don't have the money, it's just more plastic bags, more torture, the worst that you can possibly imagine," said Ms. Tesfay.

The daughter of a soldier, she said she was captured while heading to Sudan to find work to help support her mother and sister. In an effort to save her, she said, her family had sold their cows to come up with a $10,000 ransom. Details of her release aren't known, and she was not available for comment later, but Israeli authorities reported she arrived in Israel in June.
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Haben Akeza Mehari, who is now living in Israel, said he was saved only after his family in the U.S. came up with $33,000.
Another captive, Haben Akeza Mehari, who is now living in Israel, said he was saved only after his family in the U.S. came up with $33,000. Weeks after his release, on a rainy night in Tel Aviv, he described months of torture in 2011—displaying a pinkish gash where clumps of hair had been torn from his scalp.

"I see one man killed by electric shock," the 20-year-old recalled, explaining that Arab guards with AK-47 rifles kept watch over dingy basement cells where he and six other men sat, usually in the dark. He doesn't know where he was being held in the Sinai, he said, because he was moved several times blindfolded. He also described a standard threat many hostages say they endure: the promise to take organs from anyone whose family doesn't raise their ransoms.

To some degree, diplomats say, the free rein Bedouins have in the Sinai is linked to a long legacy of instability in a critical part of the Middle East. After Israel signed its 1979 Camp David treaty with Egypt, both sides agreed to demilitarize parts of the Sinai. Egyptian officials say they have tried to boost security—including this past summer—but security experts say they simply cannot mount a serious challenge against smugglers capable of arming themselves so well from high ransoms.

With the army absorbed with mainland Egypt, "the Sinai is way down on its list of priorities," says Ehud Yaari, a Jerusalem-based analyst for Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a conservative think tank that reports on Israeli security issues. "The Bedouins are free to pursue their smuggling and trafficking activities unhindered,"

For its part, the international law enforcement community has started to stir—although mostly in the realm of diplomacy. Eritrean exiles in Scandinavia lobbied their new countries' officials to pressure Egypt's authorities to go after the Sinai traffickers. That led to one European Union parliament member, Sweden's Olle Schmidt, to lobby for a EU special delegation to go to the Sinai. But the envoy's report was not hopeful, saying that without reform of Egypt's security sector, "it is unlikely that situation will improve."

Washington has barely fared better. Over the past two years, the U.S. State Department has directed only a portion of a relatively small, $1 million budget item for aid to the Horn of Africa to support "community teams" that monitor refugee camps in the region where Eritreans can be preyed upon. No U.S. funding has been targeted to address law enforcement in the Sinai, said Catherine Wiesner, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, "but various programs are under discussion with the new government."

With some 36,000 Eritrean refugees now in Israel, law enforcement authorities there have tried to act too, recently opening 10 cases of smugglers receiving ransom within Israel's borders. Six cases have led to indictments, with court proceedings pending. According to police officials in the country, a relative handful of suspects had managed to net close to $500,000 in ransom in just a few months.
Still, authorities say they doubt they can do more than scratch the surface. "The crimes are committed mostly outside of Israel," said Rahel Gershuni, who until recently was Israel's National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator.

That leaves a growing number of Eritrean immigrants who are on the receiving end of an aggressive extortion campaign with few options. Nearly 35,000 Eritreans live in the U.S., according to census data, and many have been here long enough to find jobs and buy homes, making them tempting targets. Some have tried to band together to raise money and to negotiate packaged rates to release several hostages at once.
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Amanuel Beyin, a college professor in Evansville, Ind., says he had scrimped and saved to put himself through graduate school before landing a teaching position. But after arriving on campus, with his wife and 5-year-old daughter in tow, he learned he was expected to raise $25,000—immediately—to rescue a 17-year-old cousin he had never met.

In most cases, though, the extortion is creating one financial hardship after another. Amanuel Beyin, a 35-year-old college professor in Evansville, Ind., says he had scrimped and saved to put himself through graduate school before landing a teaching position. But after arriving on campus, with his wife and 5-year-old daughter in tow, he learned he was expected to raise $25,000—immediately—to rescue a 17-year-old cousin he had never met. "I didn't even have one 10th of that amount," said Mr. Beyin, who raised the ransom money after pooling funds from more than a dozen relatives.

Back in California, Mr. Zerasion said he told local police about the ransom on his daughter and brother, and was referred to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he said he filled out a form but didn't hear back for months. "They told me there is nothing they can do," he said. "Of course, I am angry." A spokeswoman for the FBI's San Francisco office declined to comment on his case.
Left on his own, and frantic, he said he reached out to the local Eritrean Orthodox Church, but that fellow parishioners could only raise about $400. Using his life savings and loans from friends—and taking a second job—he managed to raise the ransom, however, in time to get Samhar released. She is currently in Cairo, living with an Eritrean family with plans to try to emigrate here.

News of his brother was more mixed. He was released—but Mr. Zerasion says his captors dropped him off somewhere near El Arish, where he was jailed anew and his deportation process started. Yakob Zerasion was deported from Egypt to Ethiopia last week. "This is like a second jail to him," said his brother in California. "I have to do something."