People traffickers kill Orthodox deacons in Sinai Desert

Fears for hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers being held captive in the Sinai Desert have intensified amid reports of the murder of two deacons.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide heard of the killings in a report from Italian human rights group Agenzia Habeshia. The two deacons were among 100 Eritrean refugees separated by their captors from a larger group which also included Sudanese, Somalis and Ethiopians refugees.

Agenzia Habeshia believes the deacons were singled out for punishment and killed on Saturday for alerting human rights groups about the plight of the remaining 250 refugees and asylum seekers, who have been held by the Bedouin traffickers for more than a month in the Sinai Desert.

CSW said conditions for the refugees were “degrading” and that traffickers were demanding up to $8,000 for each hostage’s release. They had already charged each refugee $2,000 for safe passage to Israel.

According to Agenzia Habeshia, the refugees have had their religious possessions destroyed and suffered beatings and torture, including electric shocks.

The refugees were reportedly badly assaulted by the captors for failing to make the ransom payments and were made to drink their own urine after being denied water. There are also reports of organ harvesting and of pregnant women in the group being forced to have abortions.

Stuart Windsor, national director of CSW, said he was “saddened” by the deaths of the two deacons.

He warned that “time is running out” for the remaining captives and called upon the international community to put pressure on the Egyptian government to “act decisively” in order to prevent more killings.

“The situation for these refugees is deteriorating daily and despite assurances by the Egyptian government that they are working hard to free these people, scant progress has been made,” he said.

“The people traffickers have little regard for human life and have shown that they will not hesitate to kill, maim and abuse their victims.

“Egypt must become more proactive in bringing its treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in line with international norms, and ending human trafficking within its borders.”

Earlier in the month, CSW, Agenzia Habeshia and other NGOs EveryOne Group and Human Rights Concern Eritrea joined in appealing for urgent international intervention to save the refugees.

A lawsuit against named traffickers has been filed in Cairo by Agenzia Habeshia and the EveryOne Group.