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Sinai torture for Eritreans kidnapped by traffickers – BBC Report

Sinai torture for Eritreans kidnapped by traffickers By Mike ThomsonBBC News, Sinai Lamlam, 17, is one of thousands of people who make the treacherous journey from Eritrea to Egypt each year. Many fall victim to unscrupulous people

Sinai torture for Eritreans kidnapped by traffickers

By Mike ThomsonBBC News, Sinai

Lamlam, 17, is one of thousands of people who make the treacherous journey from Eritrea to Egypt each year. Many fall victim to unscrupulous people traffickers, who kidnap them and demand ransom money from their families.

“The kidnappers would make me lie on my back and then they would get me to ring my family to ask them to pay the ransom they wanted,” she says, lifting up the back of her shirt to expose a rash of deep scars.

“As soon as one of my parents answered the phone, the men would melt flaming plastic over my back and inner thighs and I would scream and scream in pain.

“This, they hoped, would put extra pressure on my mother and father to find the money.”

A man standing next to her gently places a hand on her shoulder as she finishes speaking.

Zere, his faced swathed in a red and white scarf, was one of those kept with her in a windowless basement room for almost a year.

“They had about four of five of us tied up together and they would pour water on the floor and then electrocute the water so that all of us would get electrocuted at the same time,” he says.

“They would starve us, they would burn us and they would not let us sleep.”

Zere says that nine out of the 20 people held hostage with him died. But, he tells me, by that point those still alive would have welcomed that fate.

“All of us were actually hoping for death because that would have been an escape from the torture.”

In fact Lamlam and Zere were able to escape – rescued by a local Bedouin leader, Sheikh Mohammed al-Maniri.

It estimates that 3,000 Eritreans alone fled their repressive and impoverished country last year.

Many headed for the swollen refugee camps of neighbouring eastern Sudan, now home to more than 90,000 people.

The UN says that 70% of the new arrivals then vanish.

Many fall into the hands of ruthless and well-armed people-smuggling gangs as they try to make their way to Israel or Egypt in search of a better life.

Whilst some do make it through, others are sold on to different gangs two or three times as they are trafficked north.

Hostage victims are often taken to the largely lawless, desert area of north Sinai, where their kidnappers can operate with near impunity.

In 2012, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said that a “criminal network” of smugglers and traffickers was “taking profit of the desperate situation of many Eritreans”.

Egyptian security forces do operate in this region but only in limited numbers because of a long-standing peace agreement with neighbouring Israel.

In the mortuary in the town of El Arish, the extent of the carnage caused by the gruesome kidnap trade is even more evident.

“Since the revolution there have been hundreds of bodies because the borders have been more lax,” says mortician Era Ki, as he points towards the deep-freeze cabinets in front of us.

“The corpses usually have torture-style injuries.

“The ones that come from the Bedouin [people-traffickers] have always been tortured to get their families to pay ransoms.

“If their families can’t pay, they have no use for them and torture them to death.”

Even those whose families somehow manage to pay the large ransoms demanded, often feel they cannot go home now that their relatives have been financially ruined.

Berhane, an Eritrean refugee I met living in a squalid Cairo slum is one.

After being beaten, tortured and electrocuted for months before his family paid $30,000 (£20,000) for his release, he says he has constant terrifying flashbacks and cannot face going home.

Berhane has this message for any Eritreans thinking of following in his footsteps: “Stay where you are.

“Whatever you do, don’t let yourself fall into the hands of the traffickers.”

Mike Thomson’s Assignment, Escape from Sinai, will be broadcast on the BBC World Service on Thursday 7 March at 09:05 GMT.

A news report will also be featured on Radio 4’s Today Programme onWednesday 6 March

BBC Link: Sinai torture for Eritreans kidnapped by traffickers

Review overview
  • Mike wedi Fekede March 6, 2013

    u guys fight for them and soon they got released become hgdef supporters ….so Let the kidnappers teach them a lesson then…I know a lot of young eritreans where i live came through that hell and go to hgdef clubs and fests support the regime so i lost trust to such stupid ppl now

    • HGDEF March 6, 2013

      Aye! Tekhaeluley! Hiji sinai snai kab mibal dea eti neger Keysaerere kelo EriTV bizba Guezo Saharan Maekelai Bahrin Ketekaleh kela HGDEF meniseyat keygedfuwo ferihu eyu: nigeliom genzeb kefilu guezo Sehara himak eyu elkum tezarebu yiblom alo endabelkum do tebachiwu ayneberkumn? Were kab Eritrea zikefie gehanem sile zeyele menisey kiwetsie alowo enda tebahle kindey menafih dyu halifu?

      Etom abzi tegbar zitehababeru sebat mechem ab ed shaebia ente atyom entay kem trekbom sile zifeltu ashebsheb entedea halewa dob agatimuwom zirekebe trkebeni elom kem zihadmu flut eyu. Ab kemzi agatam ente dea hade teharimu entay dikum tiblu? shoot to kill dikum tiblwo.

      Atum zeytehafru kab meas ke nay meniseyat adengitsukum tezaribkum tifeltu entrfo nishaebia ab mitsilam yitekmena yikewun eyu entezeylkum?

      Ember nab sidet zemrehet egri dea tsbuk kemzeytrekib hiji dyu terediukum? Wala etom kabzi kulu mekera halifom europan amerikan ziatewus dey aw elka zeybikeyo mot hutsuy koinuwom ember meas kemti ab adi kelewu zetesfokumom adi mearn tseban koinu tsenihuwom?

      Nisikatkum hawarya tifiat gin natom aygidisekumn eyu. Nigiziu nay propaganda halki zikonekum tray ekum hasew tiblu. Ab Libia eqa Africawyan ni Qezafi yidigifu alowu tebahilom ab zihidenlu zineberu nisikum gin saebenu keygedesekum “Hanti kifle serawit nay Eritrea Libya atya ala n Qezafi kithigiz” zibelkum sebat eqa ekhum. Wey zihalefe enda resaeka dedahray tray mizikar kitiem!

  • Mike wedi Fekede March 6, 2013

    Look at Israel Demo how many Eritreans live there and how many go out for demonstration? thats very sadd

  • MEHRETU HABTE March 6, 2013


    When the couds get dark during the day & starts thunder & lightnning..we know ,most likely it is going to rain ,when western media reports with seriousness on things that a blind person could have seen long time ago..,yet BBC & CNN start to bring the subject with more frequency then we know..time is up for the propositor of the action /crime.
    This is not appreciation or condemnation of western media ..but an observation how we can know the 11th hour of a situation…..It has been the most under reported,open secret crime of the decade…..the fact that more is reported about it tells me Isaias´s usefulness has expired.what comes next Washington knows better & in this time of globalism ,I am sure washington wants some one fairly stable.

  • Yonas March 6, 2013


    How about you for President? You sound fairly stable.

  • daryl see March 10, 2013

    Thank you BBC for bringing up such stories to light to show how barbaric humans can be to other humans. The people in power who can and do nothing to stop the situation are as culpable as those who perpetuate the atrocity. And they will not do anything until pressure is on them to do so, or one of their family members falls victim to the this horrendous trade. The only way is for the international communities to do something and urgently so, now that we hear the piercing cries of the victims as they are tortured. If caught, the perpetrators deserve to be treated they way they treat their victims.