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.
Lemlem* left Eritrea after defecting from the army and planned to travel to Sudan. However, she was kidnapped on the way and transferred to Sinai. Lemlem was subjected to physical abuse and torture until she paid them a ransom to release her.
I am a citizen of Eritrea. I defected from the army and planned on getting to Sudan. The Bedouin smugglers kidnapped me in the desert, on the border between Eritrea and Sudan, after I had crossed to Sudan. After that they took me to their place in Sudan, where I stayed for a week, and then they transferred me to Sinai by car. In Sinai, I stayed with a smuggler named Abdullah for six months. I had to pay a very high sum of money for my release. I underwent severe physical abuse. Also, they tried to rape me but I screamed, so they let go of me, and I did not undergo sexual abuse.
The smugglers also chained both of my legs with a metal chain. They also blindfolded me with a piece of cloth, so that I didn’t see any light for six months. Also, during the entire time I received beatings with a stick and shoes. I received beatings all over my body, especially my back, head and ears. They also dripped melted plastic on my skin and I have burns now [the detainee shows severe burns on her body – Tribunal note]. One of my fingers was broken as a result of these beatings. I would like to see a doctor. I also suffered from hunger and thirst, they gave us food only once a day. Sometimes, they wouldn’t give us water for even three days in a row.
Eventually, I paid them $35,000 to release me and smuggle me to Israel. My parents in Eritrea collected the money and transferred it to me for the smugglers. I did not plan on coming to Israel. I know that my stay in Israel is illegal and that I entered it illegally.
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