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Extortion, Exploitation and Annihilation in the Sinai Desert

Danger lurks everywhere, photo: Ernesto Graf/flickr

On Sunday, 5 December 2010, Pope Benedict XVI called on the world to pray for “the victims of traffickers and criminals, such as the drama of the hostages, Eritreans and of other nationalities, in the Sinai desert”. By doing so, he lifted the lid on years of international indifference to the plight of the refugees fleeing from the East African chaos northwards towards safety. Shortly thereafter, the Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) bolstered the papal call with a well-researched report showing that African refugees in Sinai are habitually tortured, assaulted, raped and held for ransom by smugglers hired to bring them through Egypt’s desert.

As a consequence of a number of ongoing human-rights crises in the Horn of Africa, the Sinai has turned into a major center for people trafficking. On their search for safety, the refugees become easy prey to agents of Bedouin traffickers who promise access to Israel via Egypt. Since 2007, the Sinai Bedouins have thus developed a well-established, sizable, and highly organized trafficking network. However, in addition to smuggling people across borders for money, the Bedouins in the Sinai habitually abuse the migrants under their control and hold them for ransom.

The traffickers hold the asylum seekers hostage in various locations across the Egyptian peninsula for weeks or months until their relatives pay thousands of dollars to secure their release. In order to exact those payments the traffickers hold the refugees in steel containers, depriving them of food and water. The defenseless Africans are tortured with hot irons, electric shocks, or whippings. Women are separated from the men, detained in secluded rooms, and subjected to repeated sexual abuse and rape at the hands of their captors. According to the PHR report, many migrants were abused in one or more of these ways every two to three days – sometimes for months – until the demanded money arrived.

Yet even the migrants who finally do find their way over the border into Israel find no safe haven. » More

New ISN Partner: Institute for Economics and Peace

New ISN Partner

The ISN happily welcomes the Institute for Economics and Peace as a new partner.

Based in Sydney, Australia, the Institute is an independent not-for-profit research organization dedicated to developing the inter-relationships between business, peace and economic development.

The Institute’s flagship project is the Global Peace Index (GPI), a yearly ranking listing 149 nations according to their ‘absence of violence’. The GPI is composed of qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources, which combine factors internal to a country and external to it.

The Institute for Economics and Peace conducts research in the following areas:

  • Statistical analyses to identify the structures and causes of peace;
  • Economic assessment of the value of increased levels of peacefulness to global GDP;
  • Definition and implication of the “Peace Industry”;
  • Exploration of multinational attitudinal surveys and their relevance to societal peacefulness;
  • Analyses of the relationship between peace, markets, costs and profit;
  • Investigation of the world’s most peaceful industries;
  • Development of statistical methods to determine how to calculate the probable impact of reducing levels of violence and increasing levels of peacefulness on a company’s market size.

In addition to research, the Institute also conducts education, generates dialogue, and publicizes the output of its activities with a view to impacting the public agenda.

We are very glad to have the Institute for Economics and Peace as part of the International Relations and Security Network and look forward to a fruitful cooperation.

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ISN Insights: What 2011 Has In Store

Welcome to 2011! photo: Chris/flickr

Departing slightly from our usual format, here’s a taster for what ISN Insights will be looking at in the weeks and months to come:

This week: the economics of drug trafficking, the increasing importance of ‘rare earths’ minerals in global trade and security, the rise of sovereign wealth funds, Sudan’s upcoming referendum and climate change.

In the coming weeks and months we’ll be exploring the following issues and more: Vietnam’s geopolitical position, EU foreign policy, Cuba’s economy, rising Chinese naval power, Yemen, US-Colombian relations, economic growth in Africa, hardliners vs. reformists in Libya, E-diplomacy and much, much more.

Stay tuned and connected in 2011: Read the ISN Blog, follow us on Twitter and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.

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