By BosNewsLife Middle East and African Services

Eritreans, including Christians, flee reported persecution and poverty. In this undated photo people stand in line for food and milk products.

CAIRO/JERUSALEM (BosNewsLife)– There was international concern Friday, November 26, over the situation of 80 Eritrean refugees who rights activists said have been held hostage by people smugglers on the Egypt-Israel border for about a month.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a religious rights group, cited investigators as saying that smugglers are demanding payment of $8,000 per refugee before releasing them.

It was believed there were Christians among the refugees. Eritrean officials have arrested thousands of Christians, holding them inside metal shipping containers, barracks and underground dungeons where at least several have died from torture and other harsh conditions, church groups and rights activists say.

Most of them are believed to be evangelical Christians as Eritrea only recognizes four religious groups including Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Evangelical Church of Eritrea. However, even members of recognized religions haven’t escaped persecution, according to church observers.


The refugees hold up at the Egypt-Israel border are among 600 Eritrean, Ethiopian, Somali and Sudanese nationals being held “in degrading conditions in the Sinai desert,” CSW said.

“They are being threatened, restrained with chains around their ankles, and at one stage were denied water to clean themselves for 20 days.” The refugees reportedly set off from Tripoli in Libya for Israel, having paid $2,000 to people smugglers.

The exploitation of asylum seekers from the Horn of Africa by people traffickers is an ongoing problem, CSW said. In August, the deaths of six Eritreans on the Egypt-Israel border were reported, four of whom were killed in a dispute with people smugglers.

“In June, ten African refugees, including Eritreans, were reportedly killed by human smugglers in Sinai after they had been held for more than two months in secret underground locations,” CSW added. The smugglers are allegedly using extreme methods of torture, including electric shocks, to force the victims make the illegal payments.


CSW’s Advocacy Director Andrew Johnston said it was “unacceptable that a group of people who are entitled to protection under international law are being treated in this manner. It is also difficult to comprehend how these people smugglers are able to continue holding such a large number of people hostage for such a lengthy period of time, and with seeming impunity.”

CSW said Egypt’s government should intervene as it is currently chairing the United Nations refugee agency’s governing body and a signatory to UN and African refugee conventions.

“The Egyptian government has a duty to end this situation and bring Egypt’s treatment of refugees into line with international norms by ensuring that these and other refugees are afforded full protection and assistance,” Johnston told BosNewsLife.

There was no immediate response from Egyptian officials.


  1. How is all the refugees are Eritreans when actually majority are Ethiopians. Is’nt it surprising not to see any ethiopian refugee coming to Israel . Or is it concealed not to be reported.There are more Ethiopians in Sudan than Eritreans and I do not see a reason for them to Not to come to Israel- the land of milk and bread, when there is the chance to live and work.

    The truth is though all Ethiopians areclaim sylum claing to be as Eritreas and presenting their case as evangelicals persecuted by Eritrean government. Very Good reason for earning sympathy from Israeli government or the UNHCFR or any other country. Everything is bogus . But good luck to them.

  2. Dear Simret and Dan,

    We have no information that in your words “all Ethiopians” claim to be Eritreans “presenting their case as evangelicals persecuted by the Eritrean government.” Perhaps you could clarify your sources. What we do know is there are Eritrean Christians fleeing persecution. And no Dan there is no reason to repent for this truthful story, which you apparently don’t want to read. Obviously we don’t stop reporting on persecution, something you describe as bull…..

    Best regards,

    Stefan J. Bos, BosNewsLife

  3. It is true that there are many Etiopians who claim to be eritreans in order to get asylum or to avoid deportation, but all this things are happening because of the unjustice regime of PFDJ dictatorship! One day they will give response for all these crimeS they are comitting on the people of Eritrea, They are playing with young people lives and featurity.

  4. Although there are similiariteis between Eritreans and Ethiopians(Tigray-the least to migrate and Amhara-the most) but the are no numbers like that of Eritreans in the verge of migration risking thier ultimate life. So Ethiopians may migrate and claim to be Eritreans but they are just one two… not thousands like that of State less creatures of the world -Eritreans.


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