A Case Study of the Eritrean Migration System

ያካባቢያችን ዕዳ እጣ ጣጣና መዓት (ስለ ኤርትራዊያን ስደት ጥናት )


A Case Study of the Eritrean Migration System from Eritrea to Israel

Karen Jacobsen, Sara Robinson and Laurie Lijnders 1)


Each month thousands of men, women, and children flee Eritrea as a result of grave violations of human rights commit­ted by the Eritrean government. Political oppression and religious persecution have led to the imprisonment or disappearance of thousands of citizens, as well as mass flight. Travelling via Sudan and Egypt, 36,000 Eritreans have made their way to Israel over the past six years. Most have gone through a well-organized network of people smugglers and human traffickers. Many initially contacted smugglers but were later de­ceived, held hostage for large ransoms, and physi­cally abused. Others had no intention to come to Israel and were kidnapped in East Sudan to then be sold to Sinai traffickers who also abused them while they were held hostage for ransom. For the last two years, Israeli, Egyptian, and international human rights organizations have reported that increasing numbers of Eritreans have undergone severe torture and abuse while being held hostage for months at a time in the Sinai. Human rights organizations have documented the brutality of traffickers in the Sinai.1 Eritrean asylum seekers have testified to gang rape of men and women, whipping, and various methods of torture, includ­ing burial in the sand, electric shocks, hanging by one’s hands and legs, burning with hot-iron bars, and prolonged exposure to the sun.

This paper seeks to expand our empirical knowl­edge by describing and analysing the processes and actors, including Eritrean families both in the diaspora and in Eritrea, involved in the trans­national networks supporting and enabling the smuggling and trafficking of Eritreans through the Sinai to Israel. We focus only on the Sinai route, although migration from Eritrea also occurs south to other parts of Africa, west through Sudan to Libya, and east across the Red Sea. The Sinai route actors include smugglers from the Rishaida tribe in East Sudan, Sudanese and Egyptian authorities, Bedouin smugglers in Egypt, and Eritrean collabo­rators who work with the traffickers as intermediar­ies. It is likely that similar smuggling – and prob­ably trafficking – networks also exist for these other migration routes.



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