November 29, 2011

IN PHOTOS: Eritrean refugees protest torture, rape in Sinai

Filed under: Egypt,Eritrea — ethiopiantimes @ 11:41 pm
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On Friday morning, Eritrean refugees gathered outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv, in hopes of bringing the American government’s attention to the plight of Eritrean asylum seekers who face torture and rape at the hands of the smugglers who take them to the Israeli border.
Desperate to attempt a brutal dictatorship in Eritrea–that includes mandatory military service for young men–Eritrean asylum seekers often flee to Israel. They make the trip on foot, crossing through Egypt and the Sinai, where they rely on smugglers to take them to the Israeli bordeAccording to a report compiled by Physicians for Human Rights- Israel:

Groups of refugees, mainly from Eritrea, are being held captive by smugglers at torture camps in the El-Arish area while on the journey through the Sinai to Israel. The smugglers are demanding ransoms of thousands of dollars for the release of each captive. Methods used to apply pressure on the captives’ relatives to pay up include systematic violence and torture of the hostages. Smugglers telephone captives’ relatives so they can hear the cries of pain over the phone. Survivors report the use of systemic violence, including punching, slapping, kicking, and whipping. Forms of torture include burial in sand, electric shocks, hanging by the hands and legs, branding with hot metal, as well as rape and sexual abuse.
Once in Israel, Eritrean refugees face a policy of non-policy–the state simply does not process requests for asylum. Without a work visa, asylum seekers have extreme difficulties supporting themselves. Other than the services supplied to them by human rights organizations, they have no access to health care. They receive no social services and many are homeless, sleeping in the country’s parks and streets.
There are an estimated 27,000-35,000 African refugees in Israel, most from Sudan and Darfur. Israel is currently building a detention facility to imprison asylum seekers, including unaccompanied minors, children, and those who have fled genocide in Darfur.

Photos: Jillian Kestler-D’Amours; text: Mya Guarnier


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