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Five African migrants shot dead crossing Egypt-Israel border

Amnesty International supporters are sending appeals to the Egyptian authorities expressing concern that three men and two Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have been shot dead by Egyptian security forces since the beginning of 2008, as they attempted to cross the border into Israel.

On 19 February Egyptian security forces shot dead a Sudanese man trying to cross into Israel bringing the total to five. Security officials said 50-year-old Ermeniry Khasheef was shot in the back after he ignored orders to stop as he attempted to cross barbed wire near the border town of Rafah, in the north of the Sinai Peninsula.

Three days earlier, an Eritrean woman, Mervat Mer Hatover was shot dead after she ignored orders to stop as she was attempting to jump over the barbed wire in the El Kuntilla border region, in south-eastern Sinai Peninsula.

According to security officials, Mervat Mer Hatover and her two daughters – aged eight and 10 – had been among a group of Africans who paid smugglers to help them cross into Israel. All were arrested. The military prosecutor has reportedly ordered an autopsy on Mervat Mer Hatover but no proper investigation is known to have taken place.

An Amnesty International spokesperson said:
“We’re concerned that the Egyptian border police are disregarding their duty in opening fire on people who may have in no way presented an immediate threat to life.

“The international standards are clear: if lives are in immediate danger, then lethal force is permissible. If not, it is not.

“Desperate migrants should not be at the mercy of border guards who disregard basic international standards over using their weapons.”

On 30 January two migrants from Ivory Cost were shot and killed trying to cross the border south of Rafah. According to the Egyptian security forces, a 22-year-old man and an 18-year-old woman bled to death before an ambulance could reach them. Six Eritreans and two Ethiopians were also arrested. On 19 January, another man from Ivory Cost bled to death after he was shot in the thigh at the border with Israel. A Sudanese and a Guinean were arrested.

Thousands of migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea or other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, try to cross from Egypt to Israel each year. Their numbers have been increasing since 2007. In July 2007 alone, over 230 mostly Sudanese migrants were arrested trying to cross into Israel without official permission. According to the UNHCR some two to three million Sudanese nationals live in Egypt; most of them are migrants but they also include thousands of refugees who have fled persecution in Sudan. Israel has put pressure on Egypt to reduce the flow of people crossing the border into its territory without authorisation.

Amnesty supporters will be calling on the authorities to order a thorough and impartial investigation into the killings in line with UN principles.

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