Amnesty International is greatly concerned for the safety and security of refugees and asylum-seekers held captive in the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, after being kidnapped in and around the Shagarab refugee camps in eastern Sudan. In Sinai they are subjected to brutal violence and inhuman treatment during attempts to extract ransom payments from their families.
Amnesty International has received numerous reports since 2011 of kidnappings of Shagarab camp residents, with further incidents of kidnapping occurring in January this year. Most of those kidnapped have been forcibly taken out of Sudan over the border into Egypt, in most cases to the Sinai region. The majority of the victims report that they are sold between different criminal groups along the route.
In the Sinai they are held captive while ransom payments are extorted from their relatives. According to testimonies and information received by Amnesty International, during their captivity they are subjected to acts of extreme violence and brutality, including rape of men and women and other forms of sexual violence. Some of those who are unable to pay a ransom are killed. Some die as a result of ill-treatment or the terrible conditions of their captivity.
In January 2013, incidents of kidnapping in the Shagarab camps sparked a violent incident between refugees angered at the ongoing crimes and members of the Rashaida tribe, who are widely reported, by victims and camps residents, to be responsible for the kidnappings. For over two years, kidnappings of refugees and asylum-seekers have been taking place in and around Shagarab – a constellation of three refugee camps in eastern Sudan, near the border with Eritrea. Amnesty International has also received many reports of kidnappings of newly arrived asylum-seekers just inside Sudan’s eastern border with Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The significant majority of the victims are Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers, who make up the vast majority of the population of the Shagarab camps. A number of Ethiopian refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants are also among the victims. Reports suggest that a small number of Sudanese have also been affected. The kidnappings are reportedly carried out by criminal networks made up of local tribesmen, often with the help of Eritrean individuals and the complicity or involvement of members of the Sudanese security services. There are also allegations of the involvement of Eritrean officials in trafficking people from Eritrea to Sudan and Egypt.
This briefing does not cover all aspects of this highly complex situation, but lays out some of the central human rights concerns pertaining to the severe abuses faced by refugees and asylum-seekers occurring in Sudan and Egypt, and includes recommendations on vital, urgent efforts that must be made to bring an end to these crimes.