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Sinai Becomes Prison for African Migrants

Sinai Becomes Prison for African Migrants
By SARAH LYNCH Published: October 31, 2012

African asylum seekers waited on the Egyptian side of the border fence with Israel in early September. The trip for those trying to cross from Egypt to Israel has become increasingly dangerous as criminal gangs in Sinai have taken migrants and asylum seekers hostage.
by: Nir Elias/Reuters African asylum seekers waited on the Egyptian side of the border fence with Israel in early September. The trip for those trying to cross from Egypt to Israel has become increasingly dangerous as criminal gangs in Sinai have taken migrants and asylum seekers hostage.
AL-MEHDIA, EGYPT — Frisgy Gamienbay, a 21-year-old Eritrean, was emaciated when Egyptian Bedouins discovered him late one September evening in the Sinai Desert near the Egyptian-Israeli border. A few weeks later, he died in an Egyptian hospital near the Rafah border crossing into Gaza.

When he was found he had not eaten for three weeks and had been tortured, said a man named Abou Hamad, who cared for Mr. Gamienbay at his house in the area in the days before he died.

The Egyptian government began military operations in August to root out extremists and get Sinai under control. But despite an increased security presence, criminal gangs in Sinai continue to take migrants and asylum seekers hostage en route to Israel. They are held for ransom and often tortured.

“This is one of the most serious human rights concerns in Egypt and it’s not being addressed,” said Nicholas Piachaud, North Africa campaigner for Amnesty International. “It’s a tragedy which has unfolded across many different countries and is playing out on an international scale but being ignored by the international community.”

Sub-Saharan migrants, refugees and asylum seekers began moving northward, aiming to enter Israel, around 2006, said Shahar Shoham, who directs the migrants department at Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, which provides medical treatment for them.

At first they were mostly Sudanese, who paid as much $2,000 to be taken to Israel, said Abou Mahmoud, a Sinai Bedouin who said he used to smuggle them.

But since 2008 they have mostly come from Eritrea, said Ms. Shoham and other experts. It is these Eritreans who have become the main targets of extortion and trafficking.

Meron Estefanos, a human rights activist and radio presenter in Sweden for Radio Erena, which broadcasts in Eritrea and via satellite around the world, said that in some cases criminals lured young Eritreans seeking asylum in Ethiopia into crossing Sinai instead, with a promise of better lives in Israel. They then kidnap them, she said.

Over the past 20 months, human rights workers in Egypt, Israel and Europe have documented a disturbing new trend.

Hostages in Sinai say they never intended to go to Israel but were kidnapped in Sudan or Ethiopia on their way to refugee camps and sold to Sinai criminals to be held for ransom.

“We are actually talking about a few hundred in Israel that didn’t plan to come here,” Ms. Shoham said.

The kidnappers are members of the Rashaida tribe in Eritrea and Sudan, or other Eritreans, according to a September report by Europe External Policy Advisers, a research group in Brussels, and Tilburg University, in the Netherlands. The report was based on 104 interviews with hostages, conducted primarily by telephone while they were being held.

Many said they had been kidnapped from refugee camps, including the Shagarab camp, in Sudan, and Mai Aini, in Ethiopia.


Come and pick us up, we’re sinking

“Come and pick us up, we’re sinking”
The coast guard saves 226 migrants

The patrol boats intervened in Lybian waters after a message from a barge with a satellite phone and collected by Don Moses Zerai, an Eritrean priest in charge of the Habeshia Agency.
PALERMO  = 226 migrants of sub-Saharan origin (including 37 women and a child, two of them pregnant), aboard two different boats, were rescued and saved by the Italian coastguard in Libyan waters. To collect requests for help, received via satellite, on the evening of yesterday had been Fr. Moses Zerai, the Eritrean priest responsible for the Habeshia  Agency, and Sr. Grace of Bari.

The S.O.S. had arrived with a call from a satellite phone, from a boat load of refugees stranded off the coast of Libya. “Come and pick us, we’re going to sink …”. Fr. Moses Zerai, the Eritrean priest responsible for the Habeshia Agency dealing with migrants and asylum seekers, turned the alarm to authorities: “They told me they’re at sea from last Friday and that the sea conditions are worsening. We cannot assist helplessly to a new tragedy of the sea “.

The first S.O.S. that collected by Fr. Moses, arrived around 21: “come and pick us up, we’re going to sink”; It came from a ship with 111 people aboard, which would take the Sea last Friday and was found about 30 miles from Tripoli. An hour later, the second request for help, from a boat with 115 other migrants, about 60 miles from Tripoli. The port authorities have immediately hijacked tugboat area “Asso 30”. Tranfer shipment operations concluded
of all passengers, the Coast Guard patrol boats have taken over the route to Lampedusa.


Israeli Forces Accused of Cruelty Against Refugees

Israeli Forces Accused of Cruelty Against Refugees

Finally the Eritrean refugees who were trapped between the Egyptian and Israeli borders had a chance to speak about their ordeal: the 18 asylum seekers that Israel refused to let them cross the fence describe what happened and how it happend. Please read the following article

Reading this article, it came spontaneous in my mind the cry to the Lord by Habacuc 1 that the Church has assigned for this Tuesday of the 23rd Week of Ordinary time (Sept 11, 2012). Habacuc was raising this prayer for his people that were oppressed and were facing annihilation from the those surrounding them. In the past millennia, the Israelis suffered more than any other people on earth all types of abuses and injustices. Even now, and in their own land, which they repossessed thanks to the support from the great powers, they are continuously on the alert. As a people who have this extraordinary experience in humanity, shouldn’t they then stand out from all other peoples in the Middle East as advocates of the “poor, the orphan, the widow and the alien?” Should they not fight to defend the 1951 Convention of Geneva for the Refugees, for the drafting of which Israel was a leading force? One way to do so could be by going to the root causes of this unprecedented flow of refugees and promoting just and durable solutions.


The Israel Defense Forces is still preventing

The Israel Defense Forces is still preventing the entry of Eritrean asylum seekers

Sister Aziza from Physicians for Human Rights is turned away by the army and police from the zone where African refugees are being held on Israel’s southern border, September 6, 2012 (photo: PAST TWO DAYS Human rights institutions have been repeatedly reporting of and condemning that some 20 Eritrean refugee-claimants are being denied access to Israel by the fence recently built by the defence system of that country.  Not only, but the border controlling military units have been ordered to provide the unfortunate only drinking water :”Only the barely minimum.” Of the protection seeking derelicts, two are women, one of whom visibly pregnant had a miscarriage: it does not take much of thinking in linking traumatic stress, fear, hunger, thirst and miscarriage. UNHCR representatives in the country pleaded with the Israeli Government to let the unfortunate in, as signatories of the 1951 Geneva Convention for the Refugees. The sarcastic response from the Interrior Ministry was: “In the situation in which I have to chose between the safety of the country by sealing the borders or to let refugees in the country, I choose the safety of the borders.”
Likewise, other volunteer organizations have been prevented by the border guards to provide food and medication. Roman used to say: “Historia magistra vitae” or “We learn from past events!” This does not seem to be the case now. History repeats itself.

In 1939, 937 Jews fleeing from the Nazi Germany were denied entry in Cuba, US, and Canada, and forced to return to Europe.  Historians claim that, after their return to Europe, approximately a quarter of the ship’s passengers died at the hands of the Nazis.
The Israeli MOI is well aware that these Eritrean refugees have undertaken this “TRIP TO HELL”
after paying hefty sums to smugglers; in the process some of them may have been sold to human traffickers in Sudan or in the Sinai Peninsula and redeemed by paying thousands of dollars by relatives who are bleeding out their last resources, only to be abandoned in the desert and exposing them to the Egyptian patrolling units who first shoot and then ask for identity papers.  The Israeli MOI knows very well Egyptian authorities have refouled Eritrean refugees against their will.
Is this the case that the first generation of yesterday’s victims is turning around and victimize an even more disoriented and abandoned people?
Is the Israeli Interior Minister acting on behalf of the people of the Covenant who was instructed: “You shall not violate the rights of the alien . . . Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt” (Dt 24:17), or are the Israelis complacently looking the other way and choose to ignore his decisions on their behalf?


The IDF is preventing the entry

The IDF is preventing the entry
of a group of about 20 asylum seekers from Eritrea
trapped between fences on Israeli soil

It was published today in the Israeli media, that the IDF is preventing the entry of a group of about 20 Eritrean asylum seekers who are trapped between fences on Israeli soil next to the Egyptian border. The asylum seekers have been trapped there since Thursday and the IDF is not providing them with any food. Two of the asylum seekers are women, one of them was pregnant and had a miscarriage in the past few days.The soldiers provided the Eritreans with tarps to cover themselves from the baking sun. The soldiers have been ordered to give the asylum seekers “as little water as possible.”

The Hotline for Migrant Workers stated: “Preventing the entry of those who seek asylum here is a violation of international law, which obligates countries to allow such entries so as to examine the asylum requests. The asylum seekers are on Israeli soil and it is a violation of the principle of non-refoulement to return a person to a place where he or his freedom is endangered. The Supreme Court has ruled that no person should be deported to a place where his safety cannot be guaranteed, and it is a known fact that Egypt often deports asylum seekers to their countries of origin.”

Sigal Rozen
Public Policy Coordinator
Hotline for Migrant Workers
Tel: 054-8177845


Canadian Bill C-31

Canadian Bill C-31

Prepared by: Simon Gebreselassie (Plight of Eritrean Refugee)

Ever since the conservative party won the majority in the last election, we have seen a number of pieces of legislation introduced and voted upon. Unfortunately some of this legislation passed with inadequate public consultation, or appropriate agencies were not consulted. In other cases, they were not given enough time to study the proposed legislation, and problems have resulted.

Let me give you some background to Bill C-31, the Immigration and Refugee act that the government introduced on Feb. 16, 2012.

This Bill will bring in a lot of legislation changes which affect immigrants and refugees who are seeking to come to Canada and also refugees who are here waiting for their claims to be heard or approved. It also changes the way family sponsorships are handled plus the ministerial powers have been altered as well. The minister will have a sole power to determine who are refugees – based on their country of origin – and the power to designate which country is deemed a safe country. While the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration claims that the announced changes will only deny services that are not included in basic care for Canadian, in fact they cut much deeper. One of the many changes that is being introduced is the Interim Health Program coverage for refugee claimants, protected persons and others, effect on June 30, 2012. From then on, and depending on their status, under rules for temporary federal health coverage a person will be eligible for basic and essential care only, treatment for conditions which pose a risk to public health and public safety, or no coverage at all.


Sr. AZEZET Habtezghi Kidane


U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for a photo with the 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes Sister Azezet Kidane, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 19, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain].
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for a photo with the 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes Sister Azezet Kidane, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 19, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain].

Sr. Azezet, also known as Sister Aziza, is an Eritrean nun with the Comboni Missionary Sisters who volunteers as a nurse for the NGO Physicians for Human Rights- Israel (PHR-I). During the past two years she has led PHR-I’s efforts to call attention to human trafficking in Sinai, Egypt, including sexual slavery and the torture of hundreds of African asylum seekers. PHR-I developed a groundbreaking research project that has interviewed hundreds of victims living in Israel.

This painstaking work was accomplished by the devotion of Sister Aziza who helped identify men, women, and children who had been kidnapped, repeatedly raped, or subjected to forced labor and sexual servitude, in addition to being tortured, in the Sinai.

Her perseverance, heartfelt concern, and willingness to listen to countless hours of interviews enabled many victims to open up about their experiences of rape, torture, kidnapping, forced labor, and sexual servitude. Whereas previously little was known of the specific atrocities in Egypt, these documented firsthand accounts have led to widespread international media reporting and attention to human trafficking in the region. The State Department has relied on the work of Sister Aziza and PHR-I to promote awareness of this important issue.
(From )





U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for a photo with the 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes, individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 19, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain] - con  Azezet Kidane
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton poses for a photo with the 2012 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report Heroes, individuals around the world who have devoted their lives to the fight against human trafficking, at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on June 19, 2012. [State Department photo/ Public Domain] – con Azezet Kidane
Fortunately, Eritreans in Israel are not considered “infiltrators”.  One is singled out as a model of compassion and dedication. This is not the first time Sr. Azezet’s commitment to the Plight of the Eritrean Refugees in Israel, the Sinai Peninsula and in the ME in general is publicly recognized. Last year also she was awarded a prize in Rome.  Sr. Azezet reminds me of a story I read in my 4th grade book: a religious sister in Algiers was taking care of a very difficult French soldier, wounded in combat. Everybody else had given up on the unfortunate because of his temperament and his demands. Sister though attended to him with devotion and love. At the end the soldier himself broke up and asked the religious: “Sister, why are you doing this?” And the good nun, pointing at the cross that was hanging from the chain around her neck replied: “I do it for him, who first did it for me!” Sister Azezet did it for Him in Massawa, Asmara (Eritrea), she encountered Him and served Him in Awasa and elsewhere in Ethiopia, she loved Him and knelt before Him in South Sudan, Uganda, or wherever else the Congregation sent her, and now she sees Him tortured, ransomed, raped, cursed, denigrated, threatened, neglected, robbed of his dignity, of his personality: “He does not have any beauty or dignity to make us take notice of him. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing that would draw us to him. We despised him and rejected him he endured suffering and pain. No one would even look at him, we ignored him as if he wee nothing.” (Is 53: 2b-3). This time she has taken the image of the African refugee, stranded in Israel. Sr. Azezet and a few other compassionate souls of every racial, religious and social extraction have recognized him and are serving his cause.




Starting July 1, Canadians can expect to see something new on our streets: people begging for money to pay for medication or hospital care.

Canada, which prides itself on being more compassionate than its rough-and-tumble neighbour to the south, will soon have its very own underclass of people unable to obtain life-sustaining medication and treatment.

This is because, with no prior consultation with the provinces or health-care professionals, the federal government recently announced that it will make drastic cuts to the Interim Federal Health Program – the health-care program for people seeking refugee status in Canada – effective June 30.





World Refugee Day: Helping The ?One in Five?

Mon, 18 Jun 2012 15:31 GMT

Source: Content partner // World Food Programme

They fled across the borders of Libya as the country slid into civil war. They ran for their lives through the dense bush in western Cote d’Ivoire, to reach shelter in Liberia. And, as famine loomed in Somalia, they poured into the camps of Dadaab in Kenya and Dolo Ado in Ethiopia desperate for food, water and medical attention. 

ROME — Of the 99 million people who received WFP food assistance last year, one in five was a displaced person. Forced to flee across borders as refugees, or internally displaced within their own countries by fighting or by natural disasters, they are among the world’s most vulnerable people. Every year on World Refugee Day (20 June), we recognize their struggle.

WFP Assisting RefugeesIn 2011, WFP provided food assistance to: • Refugees: 2,595,785• IDPs: 15,093,137• Returnees: 3,061,072 

Unfortunately, many refugee crises continue for a long time. For example, WFP provides food assistance near the Sudan-Eritrea border in camps for Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees that were set up in the 1960s.