CAIRO: War, religious persecution and poverty are driving thousands of sub-Saharan Africans north through Egypt to seek better lives in Israel or Europe. Many – perhaps most – never make it further than the border towns of Egypt.
According to human rights groups such as the Italian-based Eritrean agency, Agenzia Habeshia, slavery, forced repatriation, rape, torture and death await many of these migrants and refugees. The latest report by Agenzia Habeshia provides details of some 300 Eritreans and Ethiopians who are being held in police stations in Aswan and in the military camp of Shelal in “inhuman and degrading conditions”.
The inter-governmental organisation International Organisation for Migrants (IOM) has listed the situation in Aswan as “very serious”.
Several human rights groups have reported that brutal beatings are a regular feature of detention; that political and religious refugees in particular are subjected to torture to make them sign “voluntary repatriation requests”.
More than 100 Christian Eritreans who claim religious persecution and fear for their lives in Eritrea, were last week reportedly beaten repeatedly until they signed.