There are an estimated 518,000 people living in modern slavery in Egypt, 465,000 in Sudan and an estimated 451,000 in Eritrea (GSI 2018). Since 2006 tens of thousands of Eritreans fleeing widespread human rights abuses and destitution have ended up in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Until 2010, they passed through Sinai voluntarily and generally without any problems and crossed in to Israel. However, since then, Sudanese traffickers have kidnapped Eritreans in eastern Sudan and sold them to Egyptian traffickers in Sinai who have subjected at least hundreds to violence in order to extort large sums of money from their relatives.
Yonas* was kidnapped by traffickers traffickers near Sudan’s Shagarab refugee camp in March 2012. These traffickers handed him over to Egyptian traffickers in southern Egypt, who held him in Sinai with 24 other men and eight women for six weeks.
The first group of kidnappers said I had to pay $3,500. They blindfolded all of us and chained our hands and legs together. They threatened to remove our organs if we didn’t pay. Even though my family paid, they didn’t release me but instead sold me to a second group.
The second kidnappers said we had to pay them $33,000 because they had bought us from the first group, so we had to help them get their money back.
They beat me with a metal rod. They dripped molten plastic onto my back. They beat the soles of my feet and then they forced me to stand for long periods of time, sometimes for days. Sometimes they threatened to kill me and put a gun to my head. They hung me from the ceiling so my legs couldn’t reach the floor and they gave me electric shocks. One person died after they hung him from the ceiling for 24 hours. We watched him die.
Whenever I called my relatives to ask them to pay, they burnt me with a hot iron rod so I would scream on the phone. We could not protect the women in our room: they just took them out, raped them, and brought them back. They hardly let us sleep and I thought I was going to die but in the end a group of us managed to escape.
Narrative provided by Human Rights Watch in their report “I Wanted to Lie Down and Die”: Trafficking and Torture of Eritreans in Sudan and Egypt