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.
Arsema* was kidnapped in Sudan on her way to Israel and later transferred to Sinai. She was subjected to physical abuse and rape, only being released after paying the smuggler’s ransom.
I am a citizen of Eritrea. In 2010 I arrived at the Mai Ayni in Ethiopia where I stayed for two years and five months. Then I left to Sudan to reach Israel, but I was kidnapped on the border between Ethiopia and Sudan by Bedouin smugglers. They took me and group of eight other people to a desert in Sudan. We were there for two weeks and then they transferred us to Sinai by car. I stayed in Sinai for five months. I underwent physical and sexual abuse. The smugglers chained both of my legs with a metal chain. They also blindfolded me with a piece of cloth, so that I couldn’t see light for five months. Also, during that time I received beatings with a water hose. I received beatings on my head and all over my body. Until now my head hurts and I get dizzy spells. I also suffered from hunger and thirst. They only gave us pita bread to eat.
I would also like to tell that during the last two months of my stay in Sinai I was raped every day by the smugglers. On one day, two men raped me. I did not see them because I was blindfolded. I identified them based on their voice alone. Based on this, I think about eight guards raped me during this period. The rape would occur this way: A man would come to us, release one of the women from the chains, take her to the bathroom, rape her there and bring her back. The smugglers also inserted their genitals into my mouth and not just into my genitals. I would like to mention that they would insert them into our mouths when we were tied too, and not just when they took us to the bathroom. These rapists did not use some sort of contraceptives. In the clinic here they examined me and told me I was not pregnant. I have headaches. I would like to see a doctor.
Eventually, I paid them $40,000 to release me and smuggle to me Israel. My father in Eritrea collected it and transferred all the money to the smugglers. I know that my stay in Israel is illegal and that I entered it illegally. I am not willing to return to Eritrea now.
Narrative as featured in the report ‘Tortured in Sinai, Jailed in Israel: Detention of Slavery and Torture Survivors under the Anti-Infiltration Law’ made possible by The PME Foundation