Human Trafficking Thrives on Sinai Peninsula
The Sinai Peninsula has become a prison and grave for thousands of African refugees. They are kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured to death even after their families have paid hefty ransoms. But Egypt refuses to act.
Five people fled at night under the cover of heavy wind. Gusts were whipping fiercely against the hut they had been chained in. Their guard seemed to be sleeping, and the storm raged so loudly that they were able to use a rock to smash their chains without waking him. One by one, they slithered on their sides through a gap in the wall and out to freedom. “We wanted to either escape or die,” says Zeae, a 27-year-old man from Eritrea.
The five of them were barefoot and had only a few scraps of clothing on their emaciated bodies, which were covered with burns and scars. “We saw lights in the distance,” Zeae says. But two of the men were too weak to walk. They stayed behind, lying there in the desert, because the others were too weak to help them. It was hard enough just dragging their own bodies forward.
In the end, two young men and one girl reached the first of the houses they had seen. When a Bedouin opened the door, Zeae says, “I thought it was about to start all over again” — the beatings, the torture, the rape.
The Sinai Peninsula, which connects Egypt and Israel, has become a place of suffering and death for thousands of refugees from sub-Saharan Africa, from Eritrea, Somalia or Sudan. They come in search of a better life in Israel or Europe, but many of them end up kidnapped, imprisoned and tortured. Criminals among the Bedouins living here demand ransom from the victims’ families back home. They often torture their prisoners to death. The government in Cairo, meanwhile, seems to ignore these brutal crimes.