News / Africa

Eritrean Refugees Tortured for Ransom in 'Silent Tragedy'

FILE - Refugees are seen during a visit by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to the Shagarab Eritrean Refugees camp at Kassala, Sudan, January 2012.FILE - Refugees are seen during a visit by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to the Shagarab Eritrean Refugees camp at Kassala, Sudan, January 2012.
x
FILE - Refugees are seen during a visit by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to the Shagarab Eritrean Refugees camp at Kassala, Sudan, January 2012.
FILE - Refugees are seen during a visit by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres to the Shagarab Eritrean Refugees camp at Kassala, Sudan, January 2012.
Hannah McNeish
— Trafficking in Africa has long been a problem, from drugs and minerals to ivory and people. A new type of trade involving Eritreans fleeing the regime at home, however, has led to new tales of horror. Kidnapped in Sudan and sold into Egypt, Eritrean refugees reportedly are being tortured until families back home desperately search for the money to save them.
 
When Meron Estefanos checks her phone, the list of missed phone calls is chilling. The Swedish-Eritrean human rights activist speaks to between 15 to 20 Eritrean refugees per day, many while they apparently are being tortured.

She spoke out on the sidelines of the crime conference going on in Ethiopia.
 
“As you are being tortured, they will call your family, your parents," Estefanos said. "I have talked to a mother, she was listening as her daughter was being raped by five men, and they were just saying, 'this is for you, this is for you., this is for you,' and the mother is just like… 'What can you do?' The ransom payments are a minimum of $30,000 up to $50,000. So when you have no other option, I mean you pay or you die. This has been happening since 2009 and the international community has been keeping a blind eye.”

Rising 'torture trade'

Since Israel stripped African refugees of their right to work there, and international donors gave the late Moammar Gadhafi money to try and stem the tide of migrants reaching European shores, Estafanos said a new “torture trade” has sprung up among former smugglers in Egypt’s Sinai province.
 
Aid agencies say that about 3,000 Eritreans a month flee a harsh regime that has a “shoot to kill” policy for anyone trying to leave.
 
The United Nations Refugee Agency says more than 250,000 Eritrean refugees and nearly 15,000 asylum seekers live across the Horn of Africa.
 
The Eritrean government is alleged to make its people pay to leave, punishes families with penalties for “defectors,” and blackmails the diaspora into paying two percent tax on incomes.

Targeting refugee camps

Now, according to Estafanos and a number of international organizations, many of the Eritrean people are being kidnapped from refugee camps in Sudan and sold to Egypt’s Bedouin people via various clans.
 
Estefanos - who also runs a radio show from Sweden that provides what she said is non-partisan news for Eritrea - said that some of the most horrific torture is being meted out while no one intervenes.
 
“They would hang them like Jesus Christ for four hours a day, every day and they will gang rape the men and the women, they would force hostages to rape each other," said Estefanos.
 
She said that thousands already have gone through the kidnappings and torture, and about 100 people now are being held.
 
Alexander Rondos, European Union representative for the Horn of Africa, said this is a problem to which the world must wake up.
 
“It’s rather difficult to understand why something as horrifying as this is going on other [than] to ask why I suspect, this might be a classic case of utter indifference,” he said.

Global awareness needed

Rondos said that word of what he calls this “silent tragedy” has to be spread throughout the world.
 
“People need to get to know this story in all its horror. This is a form of slave trade. We invest tons of money to get rid of piracy, and this is a variant of piracy, but with even worse human consequences,” he said.
 
Rondos said the fact that people are passing through several states, and the lack of action in stamping out this trafficking trade, suggests that “there are elements of collusion or corruption."
 
Estefanos said this business is being run by about 25 families or "clans" and could be cleared up quickly. She said last year, when Egyptian forces went into Sinai to rescue a kidnapped British citizen, they found some of the detainees chained, beaten, starving and showing signs of torture, but did not free them.
 
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir admitted at the Ethiopian crime conference that the kidnapping of Eritrean refugees was a big problem.
 
Egyptian authorities under the fallen leader Hosni Mubarak also had pledged to help. But four years later, the ransoms are rising for some of the poorest people in the world.
 
As her phone rang again, Estefanos expressed hope that soon, the stories that haunt her will disappear.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: dan bilardu from: USA
April 24, 2013 11:04 PM
Arabs are cruel and barbaric. I used to have symphathy for all that is taking place in their world, but hearing these stories, I just don't understand how evil and merciless they can be. And they call themselves Moslems and behave as though they pray to God. It appears the Egyptians are the major culprits in these atrocities, I wander what it will take to make them stop,,,,

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid