Human Trafficking in the Sinai

Fabian has been greatly distressed to learn recently of yet another example of human cruelty being practised by lawless terrorists in the Sinai peninsula that lies between Egypt and Israel / Jordan. He met representatives from the Eritrean Committee in the UK who have organinsed a 10000 signature petition seeking to mobilise action to help the suffering of their fellow nationals.

The unfortunate victims are refugees facing oppression in Eritrea and other countries in East Africa. They have been seeking to leave their own countries, to find another life by entering Egypt crossing the Sinai Desert and hoping to find asylum in Israel or other countries beyond. A network of human traffickers, led by Bedouin tribesmen in Sinai, kidnaps refugees trying to cross from Egypt to lsrael through the desert. The victims are tortured, raped and asked to pay ransom. Some refugees who have not been able to pay the ransom have had their body organs removed to be sold on the black market.

Google Map with overlay of the approximate route of Eritrean Refugees to the Sinai Peninsula

There has been media publicity about the issue but no action by governments internationally to intervene and solve the problem. Fabian agreed to try and help.

After meeting the Eritrean representatives, Fabian at once agreed to write to the Egyptian and Israeli Ambassadors in the UK to ask for some urgent co-ordinated repsonse to end this sad story of human misery. The Sinai peninsula is within Egypt but the border with Israel is a an area where security forces from both countries both work to control movement and with some co-ordinated action apprehending the terrorists might be possible. Fabian also promised to raise the matter with the William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, and with Sir Mark Lyall-Grant, the UK Ambassador to the United Nations the next time has has the opportunity to go to New York. Fabian also agreed to take the petition to Westminster.

Fabian receives the petition with 10000 signatures to take to Westminster

Later Fabian said,

"We cannot begin to comprehend how desperate people become to the extent that they will set off, often on foot, to leave their own country, family and friends for ever to look for a new life somewhere else. When a government or state has failed and lawless gunmen rule, what else is left for families to do than to become asylum seekers and sever for ever their links with home? On top of all that they run into mortal danger. For terrorists to torture and exploit refugees in their misery displays their total contempt for common humanity. I cannot just look the other way."

News update June 2013

Fabian has received news of publicity and action being organised by campaigners Jim and Naimi in Wales on behalf of the refugees. Their letter to Fabian is appended.


Introduction to Eri-Wales Alliance - serving Eritreans throughout the UK

We have started up the Eri-Wales Alliance in order to serve Eritreans throughout the UK. The trafficking and torture of Eritreans in Sinai is the main issue of concern at the moment but we also want to see the Eritrean community in the UK doing well in all aspects of life, including work, health, housing and education.
Through our base in Wales we hope to engage Eritreans and non-Eritreans in the UK to help Eritreans in whatever way they can, using their skills, contacts, experience and ideas.

Recent developments

Since our last email, we have seen developments in the following areas:

Interpol

Thanks to someone who attended our March 26th 'Death in the Desert' event, we have received two emails relating to Sinai from Interpol, the leading international police organization. In them Interpol say that:

· They are aware of the Sinai situation but there is not much they can do at the moment as they depend on the cooperation of member countries and these countries are not making the situation a high enough priority at the moment.
· The situation is also constantly changing and so Interpol would be grateful for any intelligence that we are able to provide.
Politicians

An MEP (Member of the European Parliament) has contacted us, expressing an interest in getting involved in the Sinai situation. We have emailed her with suggestions of ways in which she can do this.

BBC

We have recently been working with BBC Wales to help them with a news item on Sinai that they are preparing for tv and radio which will be broadcast June 20th - 21st. It will be a short report - 2 to 3 minutes - and will focus on the effect it is having on Eritreans here in the UK and the amount of money that Eritreans are having to pay to free their family members. We will send a link of the report after it has been broadcast in case you have missed it.

News

1. Sheikh Mohammad Ali Hassan, the Bedouin human rights activist who has rescued many Eritrean refugees from Sinai traffickers through his superb humanitarian work, recently spoke on the situation at a conference in Italy. The event was organised by Dr. Alganesh Fessaha and was well-covered by the Italian media. Click here to read one of the reports.
2. Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki referred to the Sinai situation in his speech on May 24th 2013. See here for a transcript.
3. Philemon Semere, the Eritrean who was kidnapped last year and interviewed on the Today show by BBC's Mike Thompson (see here), has now been freed and is in Cairo. You can read about his story here.
4. Israel announced recently that an unnamed African country has agreed to absorb some of the African migrants in Israel. See here for an article from the Jerusalem Post.
5. After an information-sharing meeting with 15 Eritreans in Cardiff in April, our contact details were passed on to an Eritrean in the Midlands who had paid a lot of money for his sister to be freed from kidnappers in Sinai. He knew that she had managed to get to Israel but he had not heard from her for 7 months. Through a friend, we were able to find out that she was in a detention centre in Israel and so were able to tell her brother the good news that she was alive and in good health. Also, as she has been identified as a victim of trafficking, she will be able to go to a shelter when she is released, although that may not be for some time.

Awareness raising

Church presentations

We have given presentations on Eritrea and Sinai in three churches in recent weeks, one on a Sunday and the other two in prayer meetings during the week. The churches gave offerings totalling £157 and we have given this towards a charity working with Eritrean refugees who are being held in Egyptian prisons.
The names of the churches we spoke at are:

The Gap Church, Cardiff - Sunday 21 April
Mackintosh Evangelical Church, Cardiff - Wednesday 1 May
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Barry - Monday 13 May

Peacefeast event on Eritrea in January


In January 2013, we helped our friends Sarah and Mark organise a Peacefeast event in Cardiff. Peacefeast events are held in different ethnic restaurants and aim to bring together people from different parts of the community. Food is served and a talk is given relating to the country chosen for that particular event. Click here to see a 5-minute video recorded by Sarah and Mark immediately after the first Eritrean Peacefeast.

Upcoming information-sharing meeting in Bristol

An information-sharing meeting on Sinai for Eritreans is being organised in Bristol for sometime in June, similar to the one that we held in Cardiff in April. We will be in touch as soon as a date, time and location have been finalised.

Finally....

Thanks to all who have helped us in the different areas mentioned in this newsletter.

Please get back to us with any comments or feedback that you have, either by email (j.stewart@eauk.org) or by calling Jim (07921 080 464) or Naimi for Tigrinya (07943 975 185).