By Roberto Malini Rome /Arish – http://www.tolerance.ca/Article.aspx?ID=123193&L=en
What use are the actions undertaken by human rights defenders? What use are the campaigns, reports and complaints, contacts with the institutions and the media during these operations? Unfortunately, they are sometimes insufficient to prevent humanitarian tragedies taking place, or to save lives. This is not the case, however, for the long campaign that EveryOne Group and other NGOs involved in defending the rights of refugees has carried out to protect sub-Saharan migrants in Northern Sinai.Thanks to an enormous amount of evidence, reports, photographs and videos, human rights defenders have helped to save hundreds of human lives in the North Sinai Governorate. Thanks to the continuous presence of the media and several actions by the United Nations and European Union; thanks to the courageous work of organizations such as New Generation Foundation for Human Rights, ICER, Agenzia Habeshia, the NGO Gandhi, and other small and large organizations, many human beings have now been saved who were once destined for the human organs black market, brutal treatment in the traffickers’ hideouts, inhuman conditions in Egyptian prisons and deportation. This result does not lessen the pain for the many victims in the past, or the suffering of many other young refugees. However, we believe that every life saved is a miracle, an important step towards a human society without violence, discrimination and injustice.
On Wednesday, November 9th, 2011, even if there was no mention of it in the media, another miracle took place. After the story of the prisoners in the Sinai was broadcast by the CNN in a documentary made in collaboration with EveryOne Group and the New Generation Foundation for Human Rights; after the news of the trafficking in human beings and organs was reported in the world’s most important newspapers, along with the killings, the episodes of rape, and the crimes committed by Egyptian border guards, it finally appeared in the Egyptian media (from the Daily News Egypt to the state TV). So much attention was then focused on the North Sinai Governorate that it has made it very difficult for the traffickers to carry out their dirty work. The world’s media are all there, at Arish, Gorah and Rafah. They investigate, ask questions, patrol the city in search of the underground containers and groups of sub-Saharan refugees in the hands of the smugglers. The criminals’ names are on a thousand lips: Abu Kahled, Abu Ahmed, Abu Abdellah, the Sawarka family. In the meantime, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings, the EU Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Committee against Torture and dozens of MPs and MEPs, NGOs and intellectuals have sent letters of protest and reported the crimes to the Egyptian and international authorities. In this climate, many chief-traffickers were afraid of being pursued by the authorities and on Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 decided to release most of the groups of refugees they were holding prisoner.
They were released on the border with Israel. They came from Arish, Gorah, Rafah and other cities of the Sinai, a total of 600 people according to numbers released by the UNHCR, and reported in the Italian newspaper L’Avvenire (http://www.avvenire.it/Mondo/Pagine/ Eritrean-reserves-to-organi.aspx). EveryOne Group is trying to verify the accuracy of these numbers.
Hamdy Al-Azazy, the human rights activist, told Everyone Group that after being freed by the traffickers, at least 100 Eritrean refugees reached the state of Israel. Hundreds of human beings destined for a terrible future, often death, are now free thanks to humanitarian activism and the human rights activists who never gave up, not even in the face of silence and indifference that lasted far too long.
EveryOne Group has now asked the High Commissioner for Refugees to ensure that the refugees are protected and resettled in the EU, without the threat of deportation. There will be no security for them while the possibility of deportation still exists. Although we must not lower our guard, we can be satisfied with the results this new form of activism (which uses the Internet, but also exposes itself on the frontline, running serious risks to save human lives) can achieve in today’s troubled world, a world that is still far from the ideal of peace and social justice.
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November 14, 2011