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Human Rights Watch: "I Wanted to Lie Down and Die"

Trafficking and Torture of Eritreans in Sudan and Egypt

February 14, 2014


"Since 2006, tens of thousands of Eritreans fleeing widespread human rights abuses and destitution in their country have ended up in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. Until 2010, they passed through Sinai voluntarily and generally without problems and crossed into Israel. But over the past three years, Sinai has increasingly represented a dead-end comprised of captivity, cruelty, torture, and death."

By early 2013, 300,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers lived in Sudan, Ethiopia, Israel, and Europe, with about 90 percent of Eritrean asylum seekers successfully claiming asylum in recent years. The vast majority left their country after mid-2004, fleeing widespread human rights violations, including mass long-term or indefinite forced conscription and forced labor, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest and detention, and restrictions on freedom of expression, conscience and movement. Almost all of the arrivals since mid-2004 are Christians, reflecting increased abuses against that community since 2002.

Those fleeing Eritrea take serious risks. Eritrean law requires Eritreans leaving the country to hold an exit permit which the authorities only issue selectively, severely punishing those caught trying to leave without one. When Eritreans succeed in leaving the country without permits, the authorities often punish their relatives. Border guards have shoot-to-kill orders against people leaving without permits. In this environment, the smuggling and trafficking of Eritreans to Sudan has flourished. The UN has documented some Eritrean officials' collusion with abusive Sudanese traffickers in eastern Sudan.

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