By David Knox
CNN continues its “Freedom Project” campaign against Modern Day Slavery with the documentary A Stand in the Sinai, featuring CNN correspondent Fred Pleitgen.
African refugees, mostly from Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, face a dangerous journey crossing Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula as they seek a better life in Israel. But, as reported in last year’s award-winning CNN Freedom Project documentary Death in the Desert, the reality that awaits these migrants is often slavery, rape, imprisonment and torture.
More than a year ago CNN correspondent Fred Pleitgen uncovered evidence that many of these refugees trying to reach Israel had fallen into the hands of human traffickers in the Sinai. These traffickers then tortured the refugees, and in some cases harvested their organs for sale on the black market, leaving many of their victims to die.
In A Stand in the Sinai: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary, Pleitgen returns to the Sinai and finds a different reality now awaits the constant flow of African refugees. He speaks to Bedouin tribal leaders who say they are now working to battle human trafficking in the region, offering medical support and safe havens for these refugees.
Bedouin Sheikh Mohammed Abu Billal tells Pleitgen these refugees usually come to him with “signs of torture and rape, dressed in rags and starved…methods of oppression to exploit them for money.
“The burden is heavy on me, but it is a responsibility called upon us by Islam…that is why I spend my money to harbour them and bring happiness to their hearts at any cost,” says Sheikh Mohammed.
“When the CNN Freedom Project first discovered the atrocities taking place in the Sinai, it was not enough to do a standalone report,” says Tony Maddox, executive vice president and managing director of CNN International. “Fred’s continued commitment to this story speaks to the Freedom Project’s core mission: that is to uncover stories of modern-day slavery, bring them to light, raise awareness and hopefully contribute to effective change.”
Earlier this year, the US-based Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc. recognised Death in the Desert with the prestigious Tom Renner Award for its investigative coverage of organised crime or other criminal acts, citing the CNN team’s “great personal risk in crossing the dangerous badlands of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula to expose a network of human trafficking and organ sales.”
7.30pm AEST September 23 on CNN.