Eritrea: Desperate Plight of Refugees In Sinai Exacerbated By Israeli
Illegal Migrants Bill
By Dan Wooding
Today's date is Wednesday January 18, 2012
SINAI, ON BORDER BETWEEN EGYPT AND ISRAEL -- Christian Solidarity Worldwide
(CSW), a UK-based human rights group, says that it is concerned that the
desperate plight of refugees and asylum seekers in the Sinai will be
exacerbated by the passage of the Illegal Migrants Bill in the Knesset last
week, which allows for the arrest and imprisonment of any crossing into
CSW is reporting that on 12 January the Italian NGO Agenzia Habeshia
reported that a group of 20 women, six children and 12 men from Eritrea are
being held hostage in the Sinai, where they are facing starvation and
violence. According to the agency, the men in the group are blindfolded and
chained by their hands and feet.
The women are also shackled, and they and some of the young boys are
reportedly suffering sexual violence. The group is also being subjected to
electric shocks and burning with molten plastic, cigarettes or red-hot iron.
Traffickers are requesting either $30,000 USD per person or the sale of an
organ to guarantee release and transfer to the Israeli border.
"The experiences endured by this group are commonplace for hundreds of
refugees and asylum seekers in the Sinai seeking to escape from Bedouin
people traffickers or avoid the Egyptian police, who shoot or detain
migrants seeking to cross the border into Israel," said a CSW spokesperson.
"The majority of those who would fall foul of the proposed Israeli
legislation are from sub Saharan Africa and are fleeing brutal regimes, such
as those in Eritrea and Sudan."
According to the terms of the Illegal Migrants Bill, refugees can be
imprisoned without trial for up to three years, or deported back to their
country of origin or a third country. Not only does the bill effectively
criminalize genuine refugees, it also carries a prison sentence of between
five and 15 years for Israelis who assist them in any way. Prior to the
passage of the bill, refugees were subjected either to a "Hot Return" border
policy or imprisonment on arrival and subsequent legal limbo, due to the
absence of a system of refugee status determination (RSD) in Israel that
meets international standards. The Illegal Migrants Bill will further
curtail the limited protection and assistance available to them from the
state or from concerned individuals and humanitarian NGOs.
CSW's Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said, "CSW appreciates that the flow
of people in search of refuge may present challenges. However, the Illegal
Migrants Bill will criminalize vulnerable and traumatized people, who
deserve protection, and is in clear violation of international humanitarian
law. Israel is party to the UN Refugee Convention, and is a nation that was
itself born out of an urgent search for sanctuary.
"We therefore urge the Israeli government to reconsider this proposed law,
to institute an acceptable RSD program in conjunction with the UNHCR that
allows legitimate refugees to be processed and moved on, and above all, to
respect the international principle of non-refoulement."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization working for
religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of
further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende,
Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44
(0) 78 2332 9663, email <mailto:kiri_at_csw.org.uk> kiri_at_csw.org.uk or visit
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Received on Wed Jan 18 2012 - 09:44:38 EST