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Egypt’s chaos fuels Africa’s human trafficking

HUMAN RIGHTS Egypt’s chaos fuels Africa’s human trafficking Egypt’s political unrest has brought suffering not only to its own people but also to hundreds of African refugees. Their goal is Israel but many end up as hostages


Egypt’s chaos fuels Africa’s human trafficking

Egypt’s political unrest has brought suffering not only to its own people but also to hundreds of African refugees. Their goal is Israel but many end up as hostages on the Sinai Peninsula.

Kahassay Woldesselasie simply wanted to get away from Eritrea. He planned to begin a new life in a country where citizens are not as brutally suppressed as in his East African homeland. Eritrea, located in the Horn of Africa, is one of the world’s most secretive and repressive regimes.

Woldesselasie initially fled to neighboring Sudan. While there he heard rumors of good jobs being offered in Israel. A human trafficking syndicate offered to take him there. Woldesselasie agreed and fell into their trap. The traffickers abducted him and took him as a hostage to the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula.

On the journey they blindfolded him, there was little food and water. The gangsters threatened to kill him if he did not pay ransom. “You have no choice but to call your relatives,” Woldesselasie told DW in an interview. “If they agree to pay, you might be lucky. But if they don’t, you’re dead.”

The lucky and the unlucky

Woldesselasie was one of the lucky ones. Family members living abroad agreed to pay for his release.

An Israeli flag (L) flutters next to an Egyptian one at the Nitzana crossing, along Israel's border with Egypt's Sinai desert. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS)Israel refers to asylum seekers from Africa as ‘infiltrators’

He was set free and finally managed to cross the border into Israel.

Not many are as lucky as Woldesselasie, says Hamdy al-Azazy, an Egyptian human rights activist who lives in al-Arish, the capital of the North Sinai region. He has met Eritrean refugees who had been held captive for weeks in torture camps.

While their families are listening over the phone, the victims would be subjected to burnings or have their limbs broken. Such painful experiences would then push even the poorest of families to send money. Those who don’t comply risk having their relatives being buried in the desert. According to al-Azazy, more than 500 remains of dead bodies of Africans were discovered in the desert in the past years.

The Sinai equation

The Sinai Peninsula has long been a powder keg. The indigenous population consists of Bedouin Arab tribes who settled there several hundred years ago. Today, they only represent about half of the approximately 500,000 inhabitants.

Israel withdrew from the area back in 1982 and left it to the Egyptian state. Egypt then took the best land from the Bedouins, says Günter Meyer, director of the Center for Research on the Arab World at the University of Mainz. “This goes back to a long period of discrimination against the Bedouin population.” According to Meyer, the Bedouins were seen by Egyptians as Israeli collaborators, drug smugglers and illiterate.”

Meyer however emphasizes that only a small minority of the Bedouin is involved in the criminal gangs that deal in human trafficking.

Several men who are refugees in the Sinai are seated on the ground .According to Human Rights Watch over 1,500 Eritreans flee the country every month

Following the Arab Spring which began in 2011, security forces have been weakened in the Sinai Peninsula giving the traffickers more leeway. The situation has “escalated dramatically,” Meyer warns.

There are no known figures for the number of refugees detained in torture camps in the Sinai or how many of those hostages have perished. According to the Israeli government, more than 10,000 illegal immigrants crossed the Sinai border into Israel in 2012. Most of them came from Eritrea and Sudan. But in Israel, a nation once founded by immigrants, the refugees are not welcome. They have little chance of obtaining political asylum. Instead Israel has built a more than 200-kilometer – long (124 miles) fence against them. In the first five months of 2013, only 33 refugees managed to cross the border.
Little international support

The world, including the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), has turned a deaf ear to the plight of these refugees, says human rights activist Hamdy al-Azazy. “They write their reports from their air-conditioned offices in Cairo,” he laments.

“Nobody is on site to assess the real situation. I’m the only one here in the midst of all these dangers.” There have been several attacks on him, he adds.

The few meager belongings of a refugee lie scattered around the area of the park which he has made his home.
Ashley Gallagher, Tel Aviv May 2013
via: DW/ Robert Mudge African asylum seekers meet with harsh reality in Israel

His office was ransacked, his children have been attacked.

Al-Azazy also raises serious allegations against the Egyptian security forces. According to him victims who manage to escape from the hands of the traffickers are detained as criminals because they are in the country illegally. But the perpetrators of human trafficking enjoy a life of luxury in large villas. He believes the traffickers are supported by Egypt’s security agencies.

“Traffickers pay a lot of bribes so that they can freely bring refugees to the Sinai.”

Kahassay Woldesselasie does not feel at home in Israel. He hopes that one day peace and freedom will reign in his East African nation so he can return.

Source: DW

Review overview
  • Yerhiwo September 5, 2013

    Poor fellow heart is bleeding whenever I see your face! I hope those who caused this misery get to hell or captured as hostages themselves.

    Wedi Medhin Berad..look this kids and try to come into your sense and get the hell out of our country! You go back to Tigray with your puppets Monkey and Kisha. Please leave Eritrea to Eritreans and leave us alone…..enough is enough!!! Your brutal administration of Mafia type that strted in Nakfa killed many innocent people. You killed our father then brothers and now our kids.

    UN, US, EU, AU, Amnesty, Human Right Watch, etc….please charge this brutal dictator with his collaborators Kisha, Monkey, Woldu Baria, Yemane Charlie, etc. in Hague for crime committed against humanity!! People are dying in Eritrean jails, people are fleeing their country in droves, people are living in misery inside Eritrea because of the lawless regime. There is no constitution or rule of law in Eritrea. GOD BLESS ERITREA!!!!
    Time is coming that we will liberate our country by hook or by crook!!!

    • Abel September 6, 2013

      @Yerhiwo, don’t be fool!

      UN, US, EU, AU, Amnesty, Human Right Watch, etc….


      the brutal dictator with his collaborators Kisha, Monkey, Woldu Baria, Yemane Charlie,…

      They word coordinated against the Diaspora, making them first as poor as posible (through obligation to pay for ransom) !

      The conspired mession is a sword with two evil and sharp edges!

      • GM September 6, 2013


        It is very easy to blame WEIANE, US, EU, AU, Amnesty Internatona, WRW ect, ect……


    • NEW HOPE ERITREA September 6, 2013

      Yerhiwo ,

      No we can not liberate anything with a shitty & destructive attitude like yours.
      Isayas & his clicks are not doing this because they are AGAME .but because we have been idiots for over 50 years.
      Do not harden the heart of the beautiful AGAME people that are helping people that insult them.
      You can not go to save them & your RKWAN Eritrean mentality is creating enemity for the people that are helping us ,THE BEAUTIFUL AGAME people.
      No wonder Weyane does not want to help the opposition in a meanning ful way .THE OPPOSITION HAS MORE HATRED FOR AGAMES THAN ISAIAS.

      • Suleiman Salim September 6, 2013

        Agame ‘nda belu nAgame ab Adom keydom ylHswom!!! ha ha

      • samuel September 7, 2013

        “ቅሚጦ ዘይብሉ” ይብል ነበረ፡ የማነ “ባሪያ”።
        እቲ ቅሚጦኦም ራሕሪሖም ክነፍጹ ዘገደዶም፡ እቲ ተቐቢሉ ዳሮም ዘርኣዮም፡ ከም’ቲ ኪዳነ ዓንደ-መስቀል ዝበሎ፡ “ክህድድ ኣንተደኣ ኮይነ፡ ኣብ ቅድሚ ጸላኢየይ”፡ ኣነ ኸኣ፡ ኣብ ቅድሚ ጸላኢ’ዞም ውጹዓት ሕነኦም ምእንታን ክፈድየሎም ዓቕሚ ምስኣነይ፡ ብጣዕሚ እዩ ዘቐንዝወኒ።

    • Suleiman Salim September 6, 2013

      ab hawassa z’akebuKa Tegaru goytotka ‘yom::

      • Genet September 7, 2013

        how much are you getting paid by PFDJ operatives for your comment Slow man? I hope they are checking on you.

        • Suleiman Salim September 7, 2013

          Dear sister Genet,

          I would like to believe that you are more intelligent than that.

  • ogbai September 5, 2013

    My appeal is to the defence forces’ and the blind suporters of the dictator of Eritrean people inside and outside the country. Why support this kind of dictator and why kissing his hands like a holy-man .Couldn’t you see or feel what is happening to your brothers,sisters,fathers, mothers and your own children everywhere slaugthers like a sheep. It isn’t the world to blame but it is our own people. Why fear a man like us, eventhough he is evil at least we should take him to Maicholot.

  • Keren September 5, 2013

    Did some fool Eritreans thought and dreamed to be Arabs?

    Savage Arabs, don’t they have anything else to do beside torturing, murdering and enslaving innocent Eritreans and Africans?
    Would it be bad to wish he Egyptians and the Libyans everlasting hell like Iraq if they continue to mistreat poor Eritreans?

    • Abel September 6, 2013

      @Keren, I have never believed that the Bedouins are the doers/perpetrators of the phenomenon, but this was concieved by some evil agencies, institutions and governments outside and also inside Africa!

      • ahmed saleh September 6, 2013

        Ignore the cowards zombie figures . We are pure Eritreans with culture and tradition to stay proud of ourselves .
        First of all , let him come with his real name to give him respect than hiding with multiple names .
        Eritrean tradition .

        • GM September 6, 2013

          Ahmed Saleh the Bedouin,

          Stop defending the animals, your coward arab bedouin brothers.
          Remember there will be time for sure you and your types ( the Arab/Muslim Sypathizers) will be purged from Eritrea.

          Stop preaching!

          • ahmed saleh September 7, 2013

            Zombie always zombie to act like living dead

          • samuel September 8, 2013

            You sound as if you’re crawling out of a fascist corner. People with such ideas are absolute disaster for a developing country.

  • Said September 6, 2013

    Dictator he will not care for what haben for those instant kids , an all so I blamed the opositions, they waiting, for somebody to do the job .if on the bediun marcy forget it, to tham it’s a business.I do not now what we wetting .the united nation or the hole’s an old game if we not ready to face this people it will be continue , thare is no time to cray , we have stand up and we cannot talk this time of been coward it’s over .united against dictator.

  • Semhar September 6, 2013

    መንእሰይ ወለዶ
    ቢረት ኣብ ኢድካ
    ወዲ መድሂን በራድ ዲኣቢሎስ ኢሳያስ ኣብ መረትካ
    ኢንታይ ቲጽበ ኣለካ ፧
    ማሊሻ ማሊሻ ማሊሻ
    በትሪ ኣብ ኢድካ
    ኢስያስ ተመን ኣብ መረትካ
    ኢንታይ ቲጽበ ኣለካ ፧

  • ahmed saleh September 6, 2013

    My dear fellow Eritreans with good heart who share the pain of our people . According recent report of
    Egyptian turmoil political crises , some extremist organizations are deploying their fighters against
    the military regime in Egypt . The region started to become a place of intense confrontation against
    the government to cause destructive actions .
    The issue of those poor victims either Eritrean or else would get into more complicated scenario .
    The medicine to cure the ills depends on finding the resources behind to all of these miseries .
    Only untruthful people direct the blame on the wrong direction for the reason only they understand why .

    • ahmed saleh September 6, 2013

      We as Eritreans who vow to fight for our people betterment only speak to Eritreans cause in this forum.
      But that doesn’t mean we care less to others injustice cases either be ETHIOPIAN , SUDANESE or SOMALIAN .

    • ahmed saleh September 6, 2013

      To add the missed clarification of my comment , the subject in question is SINAI region .

  • Genet September 6, 2013

    The Sinai saga. Who is to blame? I say, the blind puppy of the diaspora Eritreans
    Oh, Diaspora Eritreans, what is going to take for you to come to your sences? How long are you going to keep your attentions away from the suffering of your people? Looking at The suffering of those young Eritreans, do you evn feel a little bit of pain? As Eritreans, how can you allow yourselves to be unconcerned, numb to the suffering of your people? How can you sleep at night, knowing young Eritreans are dying out there like a lost sheep? Do you realy conceder yourselves Eritreans? If you do, then how can you be so selfish, greedy, deovid of emotion and self-serving? Do you realy think, the Eritrean people will ever forget your action of the full support of the dictator? I think not.

    • Suleiman Salim September 6, 2013

      You are putting the blame on the wrong people.

      • Genet September 7, 2013

        Slaw man.
        Dead zombie, why don’t you tell us who to blame? I know, you are blaming the young Eritreans who are desperate to survive. The dictator who has no intentions to care for Eritreans and his supporters in diaspora are 100% responsible. You don’t have the gut or you are hypnotized to act like a zombie, to see the truth. I was a supporter of Isaias too. But I came to my senses. The man slowly turned to world class dictator. I saw his real purpose. He is in our country for revenge not to care for Eritreans. He is one lousy man not a super power. You and the selfish diaspora Eritreans are fueling his engines of abuse. Don’t come here with your empty argument to mislead People. You are dead zombie.

        • Suleiman Salim September 7, 2013

          “The Sinai saga. Who is to blame?”

          Place of the crime: Sini
          The perpetrators: Some Sini Arabs

          My dear sister Genet,if you think logically you will find an answer to your question very easily.

          • ahmed saleh September 8, 2013

            Keep running from responsiblities afraid to
            confront the wrongs like a man . Bunch of cowards still expect out women to save them

          • Genet September 8, 2013

            Can you please tell us, how you are looking at this issue? It is so clear, no body should have problem. You don’t say much, so it is hard to say how you are looking at this. It is right to say this is ZOMBIE THINKING.

  • motbinore September 6, 2013

    I am really sad to see those young Eritrean suffer like SLAVES & why do we always blame UN, the mother f.. Bedouin, Rashidiya and Sudan security. We have to blame our self for supporting the DICTATOR & we have to get rid of him by any means if not Eritrea will become ghost country. I always wonder why we keep talking about the past MENKAE, YEMIN, Jebha and so on why can’t we talk about what is happening now ISAIS use to kill everybody & he he is still doing it he kill MENKAE in the Seventies and he did the same to G15 AND HE IS NOT GOING TO STOP NOW. Please let’s not waist our time let’s save the young generation and kill all the Rashida and his associates.