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Sudan police hand Eritrean refugees to traffickers to torture: report

February 11 - 2014 BERLIN

Sudanese security forces often collude with human traffickers who kidnap Eritreans from refugee camps in eastern Sudan. They are then tortured for months for the purpose of extortion, according to a new report on human trafficking in Sudan and Egypt.

Human Rights Watch published a report on Tuesday which contains dozens of testimonies from Eritrean victims, in which they explain how the Sudanese traffickers have used rape, burning, mutilation, and electric shocks to extort large sums of money from the victims’ relatives in the past few years. They reported that, once they were kidnapped from inside or near United Nations refugee camps in eastern Sudan, “Sudanese police and soldiers handed Eritreans to traffickers, even at police stations”.

Kidnapped from Kassala refugee camps

Over the past ten years, about 130,000 Eritreans have registered as refugees in eastern Sudan’s refugee camps. 86,087 Eritreans sheltered in camps in October 2013, according to figures from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR).

By 2011, Sudanese traffickers had started to kidnap Eritreans from inside or near the refugee camps near Kassala town in eastern Sudan and transferred them to Egyptian traffickers against their will. In 2012, the UNHCR recorded about 30 kidnapping cases a month, although it estimated that the number was much higher.

A 23-year-old Eritrean man kidnapped near Sudan’s Shagarab refugee camp in March 2012 told HRW in November 2012 about his abduction that lasted six weeks. “Whenever I called my relatives to ask them to pay, they burned me with a hot iron rod so I would scream on the phone (…) 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.”

The human rights organisation interviewed a trafficker in Sinai in November 2012 who said he does not mind talking because “the government doesn’t care. The police won’t do anything to stop us”. He told he has bought “about 100” Eritreans to torture and extort for months, and made “about $200,000 profit” that year.

Sudanese security involved in trafficking

The report documented eight cases in which Sudanese police and Sudanese military handed Eritreans directly to traffickers who then abused them. In some cases, this happens inside police stations. In 2012 and 2013, Sudanese authorities prosecuted 14 cases involving traffickers in eastern Sudan, and four officials for colluding with them.

“Sudan’s and Egypt’s very limited prosecutions of both traffickers of Eritreans and colluding officials means both countries are breaching their obligations under national and international anti-trafficking laws”, Gerry Simpson, author of the report and senior refugee researcher at HRW, said. “Sudan has not yet passed any anti-trafficking legislation.

“The Sudanese authorities should investigate senior police officials responsible for collusion with traffickers in Kassala town”, he recommended. “Sudan should urgently improve protection in the refugee camps near Kassala and in border areas to help prevent kidnapping and trafficking of Eritreans.”

Photo: Map of Eritrean refugee camps in eastern Sudan showing key routes relating to trafficking of Eritreans (HRW)

Related: Sudan’s top officials cooperate in human trafficking’: report (5 December 2013)

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