Egypt urged to help hundreds of Christian hostages in desert prison
Human rights activists asked recently the Egyptian government to free hundreds of refugees from Eritrea and other African countries who have been kept hostage for one month in a desert prison.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Agenzia Habeshia, EveryOne Group and Human Rights Concern Eritrea also sent a joint appeal for urgent international intervention saying the 250 refugees have been tortured, are chained at the ankles, undergo electric shocks and lack food and water, Worthy News reported.
According to Worthy News, many of the hostages are Christians who fled persecution from their country of origin, and who paid $2,000 for passage to Israel. Instead, they were kept in purpose-built containers in the Sinai Desert by Bedouin human traffickers.
CSW told Worthy News that kidnapping, the trading of groups of asylum seekers and the trafficking of organs is common in the area and several gangs are involved. They exploit asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa and demand payment of up to $8,000 for a hostage’s release.
CSW expressed grave concern that already some 100 of the 250 refugees “were moved overnight” despite claims by the Egyptian government that it is working “round the clock” to seek the release of the victims, Worthy News reported.
CSW told Worthy News that no real progress has been made by the government. Stuart Windsor, CSW national director said, “The latest news that some of the refugees have been moved suddenly and under cover of darkness is deeply worrying. The welfare of the remaining refugees is also of great concern.”
Prior to separating and moving the Eritrean hostages, their religious materials were torn up and those who failed to make full payments were assaulted, according to Worthy News.
Charges have been filed in Cairo, the capital city of Egypt, against traffickers by EveryOne Group and Agenzia Habeshia. However, human rights groups are also appealing to the international community to pressure Egypt to strengthen measures to free the refugees, Worthy News said.
Christians, many of them evangelicals, often flee Eritrea and other countries to escape persecution and imprisonment. In Eritrea only four religious groups are recognized, namely Islam, the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea, the Eritrean Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, Worthy News said.
However, according to Worthy News even those from recognized religions experience persecution in Eritrea, which is in the U.S. State Department’s list of “worst violators” of religious freedom. Eritrea’s government has denied persecuting anyone for their religious beliefs.