World Council of Churches in Geneva
Told 3,000 Lives, Mostly Eritreans, Perished in the Sinai
Last Updated on Monday, 14 November 2011 21:10 Written by EPDP Information Office Monday, 14 November 2011 20:58
Senior officials of the World Council of Churches (WCC) were informed by the Eritrean priest, Father Mussie Zerai, on Monday 14 November, that in the last three years alone, 10,000 African refugees suffered brutalities by Bedouin human organ traffickers inthe Egyptian Sinai and Sudan and that 3,000 of them perished without trace. The Catholic priest, Father Mussie, is the founder-manager of Agenzia Habeshia which has been engaged in advocacy on behalf of victimized Eritrean and Ethiopian asylum seekers in the Middle East and North Africa.
Assisting in the moving presentation of a human tragedy by Father Mussie Zerai at the Ecumenical Centre of WCC in Geneva was Mr. Woldeyesus Ammar, head of Foreign Relations Office for the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP).
Organized by Dr. Nigussu Legesse, WCC Programme Executive in charge of African relations, and Mr. Melaku Kifle, a veteran WCC official, the meeting was chaired by Dr. Mathews G. Chunakara, WCC Director of International Affairs. Others who attended the meeting included Ms. Christina Papazoglou, Programme Executive in WCC division for Human Rights and Global Advocacy; Ms Syndia Nduna, of the WCC Migration Office; two human rights officials of the Lutheran World Federation and WCC media staff who will give publicity to the human tragedy explained by Father Mussie Zerai.
Father Mussie explained in a very graphic manner the suffering of many Eritrean, Ethiopian and Sudanese asylum seekers in the hands of human traffickers in the region and accused Egyptian officials of continued failure to listen to appeals made to save lives from human organ traffickers in the Sinai and other parts of Egypt. He said the tragic situation started to receive press attention only two months ago but the brutal acts of the human traffickers are still continuing at the same rate as before.
Father Mussie said Sinai is the epicentre of this cruel business. About 30,000 asylum seekers tried to reach Israel since 2007. The majority of them were subjected to payment of huge amounts of money. However, those who had to pay the hardest were 10,000 souls, a third of whom have perished. Many of them died after their organs, including cornea, kidneys and livers, were brutally taken out of them.
Most of the Eritrean and Ethiopian victims were taken from UNHCR-administered refugee camps in eastern Sudan and northern Ethiopia, and the Sudanese mainly came from Darfur. The human organ harvesting, which is now a lucrative business involving hundreds of millions of dollars in Egypt, is handled by mobile clinics which work hand in glove with Egyptian hospitals like the one in Rafah.
Father Mussie also recounted about the suffering of thousands of asylum refugees in Egyptian prisons inside Cairo and other cities where many die because of medical neglect and cruel treatments. Egyptian police are free to shoot and kill asylum seekers trying to reach Israel The imprisoned refugees in Egyptian dungeons are not allowed UNHCR and Red Cross visitations. But the majority of them are holders UNHCR cards as refugees.
Father Mussie called on the WCC and its affiliates to make pressure bear on Egypt through all international human rights bodies, the mass media, and through appeals and visitations to the embassies of Egypt, the Sudan and Israel
The shocked audience to Father Mussie’s presentation commented on what should be done as a matter of urgency. Among those who expressed his profound shock and made suggestions for immediate and concrete action was Mr. Melaku Kifle who recommended the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, the World Federation of Churches (WFC) and the Vatican Nuncio in Geneva, Father Silvano Thomasi, to jointly do the following:
- Urgently hold a tripartite meeting and review the situation of human trafficking in the Sinai and east Sudan;
- Hold meetings with the Human Rights Commission in Geneva, the UNHCR, the International Committee of Red Cross and ask them what they know about this problem and what they did or could do about it!
- To jointly visit the Egyptian, Sudanese and Israeli embassies and UN permanent representatives in Geneva and the failures for action by their governments;
- Urge the UN, the EU and the WCC to jointly take appropriate action;
- To send messages and emissaries to churches and mosques in Egypt to do advocacy work on behalf of the victims of human traffickers and the violation of refugee laws and conventions by the Egyptian government and its police.
In summing up the matter, the WCC Director of International Affairs, Dr. Chunakara, stated that the suggestions pointed out by Mr. Melaku Kifle will be helpful in working out solutions. He said the WCC will be able to issue in December its first statement on the matter, and the WCC Executive Committee meeting in February 2012 will further review this human tragedy. Dr. Chunakara added that the problem can be discussed at the African Peace and Security meeting in Geneva where over 90 African delegations will be attending. He asked the WCC administration to arrange an invitation for Father Mussie Zerai to attend the said African consultation meeting on African Peace and Security.
Dr. Chunakara thanks Father Mussie for bringing this important matter to the attention of WCC which will try to help soon. The WCC is a powerful church organizations which brings together 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 560 million Christians and including most of the world’s Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. While the bulk of the WCC’s founding churches were European and North American, today most member churches are in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific.