One Eritrean man tortured, doused in petrol and set on fire because family couldn’t pay ransom
Egypt and Sudan must make urgent and concerted efforts to stop asylum-seekers and refugees being kidnapped from camps in Sudan, forcibly transported to Egypt and severely abused in the Sinai desert, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today.
Amnesty is calling on the Egyptian security forces to urgently investigate reports that refugees and asylum-seekers are being held captive in compounds in northeast Sinai.
The vast majority of victims are Eritrean. For over two years, refugees and asylum-seekers have been kidnapped from in and around the Shagarab refugee camps in eastern Sudan, near the Eritrean border. They have then been trafficked to Egypt’s Sinai desert, where they’ve been held captive by Bedouin criminal gangs who’ve demanded ransom payments of up to £25,000 in telephone calls to their families.
Amnesty continues to receive fresh reports of kidnappings in and around the Shagarab camps and the organisation is alarmed at the apparently inadequate safety and security provision there.
According to testimonies gathered by Amnesty, captives in Sinai have suffered extreme violence and cruelty, including repeated rape and other forms of sexual violence, beatings with chains, burning with heated plastic and metal, electric shocks, suspension from the ceiling, and being doused with petrol and set on fire. One Eritrean survivor describes what happened to another captive who was “made an example of” because he said his family could not pay:
“He was bleeding all over. After more beatings, they poured petrol on him and set him on fire. After he died, they left his body in the room with us until it became rotten and worms started crawling. They forced all of us in turns to hold him.”
One teenage boy held for eight months in Sinai witnessed seven deaths among the other captives during that time.
Amnesty International Eritrea researcher Claire Beston said:
“The Egyptian authorities have a duty to protect any individual on their soil, and must urgently take steps to free all people held captive and subjected to appalling abuses in Sinai, and provide them with immediate medical attention and access to asylum procedures and support.
“It is particularly worrying that numerous victims have alleged that the members of the Sudanese National Security Service are involved in the kidnappings near the borders with Eritrea and Ethiopia.
“The Sudanese government must investigate all allegations of the involvement or complicity of Sudanese officers and where sufficient evidence is found, individuals must be arrested and prosecuted.”
Amnesty is also calling on the countries along the trafficking route - running from Eritrea through Ethiopia and Sudan into Egypt - to work together to bring an end to the kidnapping, trafficking and horrific abuses, and to increase engagement with international agencies’ initiatives to tackle these crimes. However, the organisation cautioned that regional cooperation must not infringe on the rights and safety of refugees and asylum-seekers.
The majority of victims of abuses in Sinai who have been freed are now in Israel, while some are in Egypt and Ethiopia. Amnesty said that destination countries, including Israel, must put in place transparent systems to identify victims of trafficking and other abuses, and provide victims with access to medical, psycho-social and rehabilitation services and to fair asylum procedures.
- Download the Briefing 'Egypt/Sudan: Refugees and Asylum-Seekers Face Brutal Treatment, Kidnapping for Ransom and Human Trafficking' (PDF)