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.
Robel*, a 26-year-old Eritrean man, recalls how he was held by a trafficker in Sinai for three months in late 2010.
I was held in a place with about 85 other people, including 20 women. I remember some people told me they thought we were near the United Nations base at the border town of Rafah [Egypt-Gaza border]. During those three months, I heard from Eritrean interpreters who were working for a trafficker who they said was holding another 200 people in other places, so we all thought he was a big trafficker.
The traffickers made some of us work as construction workers and cleaners on the construction sites and in the house of a man the Eritrean interpreters said was also a trafficker. I worked about two weeks in his house and while cleaning there I saw two Egyptian soldiers – wearing military uniform, green and brown and spotted - come to the house three times. Each time it was the same two men and each time they just looked at us, cleaning the house. I remember some of us said we thought we had to clean the house to prepare it for the soldiers.
Some of the other Eritreans in our group managed to escape. Some never came back but soldiers caught one group of five people about an hour after they had escaped and brought them to the trafficker holding us. When the group came back, they told us what had happened.
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