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African refugees kidnapped, brutalized in Sinai, report says

April 03, 2013|By Emily Alpert

One of the men said he could not pay -- and so they decided to make an example of him.

The kidnappers stripped the Ethiopian man and violated him, an Eritrean refugee who survived his ordeal in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula told Amnesty International. They beat the man until he was bleeding all over. They poured gasoline over his battered body. Then they set him on fire.

Even after the man died, the kidnappers used his decaying body to torment other captives, the refugee said. “They forced all of us in turns to hold him,” the Eritrean told the human rights group.

Refugees have been seized in and around camps in eastern Sudan, held captive in Sinai and brutalized as their captors demand ransoms as much as $40,000, Amnesty International said Wednesday, laying out a disturbing history of abductions since 2011.

Most of the victims are Eritrean or Ethiopian refugees and asylum seekers. The victims say members of a local tribe carry out the abductions.

“My daughter was crying and asking for help,” one woman told Amnesty, recounting a February phone call. “She told me I had five days to try and find $30,000 or else they will kill her.”

Nearly 400 kidnappings in the area were verified by the United Nations refugee agency over the last two years, but Amnesty said the numbers were probably much higher. Abductions are reported to the U.N. agency only if someone escapes and returns to the camps, the rights group said.

Survivors told Amnesty that the captives were raped, beaten and subjected to electric shock. Some of the abductees were slain because their families could not pay; others were reportedly sold to other criminal groups even after a ransom was paid for their freedom.

The rights group called on the Sudanese government to boost security near the Shagarab refugee camps and make trafficking a criminal offense. U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman Melissa Fleming told the Agence France-Presse that Sudan had deployed more police to improve security around the refugee camps.

Amnesty International also urged Egypt and Israel to avoid detaining victims for immigration purposes and make sure they could petition for asylum.

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