Stop Modern-Day Slavery: Peaceful Demonstration

By IndepthAfrica
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Dec 7th, 2012
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Stop Modern-Day Slavery: Peaceful Demonstration

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on December 10th. This year, concerned Winnipeggers from various backgrounds will be heading to the Legislative Building on Monday, December 10th at noon, in a peaceful demonstration to raise awareness about the situation of Eritrean and other African refugees in Sinai. Modern Day slavery exists. And it affects people everywhere including Winnipeg.

Thousands have become victims of systematic and horrific atrocities in Egyptian Sinai, under Bedouin smugglers and their ‘guides.’ In his speech at the Clinton Initiative, in September 2012, President Barack Obama denounced it as ‘evil and barbaric…modern day slavery.’ Armed human smugglers kidnap vulnerable refugees from refugee camps, such as the Shegreab refugee camp in Sudan and other areas and take them to Sinai Desert. Children, women and men are shackled in chains for many months and some for years with minimal to no food or sustenance. They are barely kept alive until their families overseas are willing to pay their ransom. Many of those, whose families are not able to provide the ransom payment, are subjected to extreme forms of unspeakable torture. Their organs are harvested for illegal organ trade and they are left to die a brutal death. Women and young girls endure systematic and brutal gang rape. Some of these women have felt it intolerable to keep living and have been forced to commit suicide.

Numerous human rights and humanitarian groups and the international media have documented the horrific atrocities unfolding under our own eyes. There are many videos on You Tube depicting the atrocities. (A word of warning: some of these videos may be disturbing to the viewer). CNN has extensively covered the atrocities in its documentary program under Freedom Project: Death In The Desert. CNN has estimated more than 3,000 Eritrean and other refugees have become the victims of such shocking enslavement and death.

As Eritrean Canadians, as human beings, we can’t fully describe the severe impact such atrocities have left in our daily lives. Eritrean Canadians have been subjected to extortion and duress to pay thousands of dollars and launder the money to traffickers’ half a globe away in a bid to save the lives of our brothers and sisters. It has become a common phenomenon to hear over the phone the cries and agonies of our beloved as they were tortured. The perpetrators threaten us over the phone to launder 30,000-50,000 US dollars if we want to save the lives of our family members. As citizens of this great nation, we urge our Canadian government to help stop the atrocities of Sinai.

It is also noteworthy to raise the situation of Eritrean refugees in Israel. The State of Israel has been welcoming Eritrean refugees understanding their predicament. In recent years, Israel has accepted more than 50,000 Eritrean refugees. We sincerely appreciate the generosity of the Israeli government. However, we are now concerned to learn that the government of Israel is preparing to implement a policy which forces asylum seekers to remain in prison camps for three years or to forcibly return them to their country of origin. The prolonged stay in prisons psychologically depresses these refugees, most of whom have endured hellish treatment under the Sinai Bedouins. We implore the government in Israel to find a durable solution to their predicament. If the government of Israel cannot find a solution to the Eritrean refugee problem in Israel, we kindly appeal to the Canadian government, through the UNHCR, to assess and start resettlement programs to Canada.

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on December 10th. This year, concerned Winnipeggers from various backgrounds will be heading to the Legislative Building to raise awareness about the situation of Eritrean and other African refugees in Sinai.

To this end, we put forth our most urgent appeal to the government of Manitoba and government of Canada:

  • To give urgent attention to the horrific and inhuman atrocities of Eritrean refugees in Sinai and take the necessary steps at its disposal to help put an end to suffering of innocent refugees.
  • To put pressure on the government of Egypt to act to stop the heinous atrocities that include abduction, extortion, extreme physical torture, enslavement, rape, organ harvesting and trading that is happening under its jurisdiction in Sinai, and to demand the Egyptian government to intervene immediately and free the refugees that are being held captive slaves in torture camps.
  • To take diplomatic initiatives, and remind Egypt to take urgent action to tackle organized crime by rescuing these hostages, bringing their captors to justice, and permanently closing these torture camps. It is also vital that Egypt brings its treatment of refugees into line with international legislation to which it is party, allow unhindered access to the UNHCR to all refugees, and end the practice of jailing refugees, and shooting migrants on its border with Israel.
  • To put pressure on the government of Sudan to stop the corrupt elements of its police/military and border guard personnel who are arresting refugees from the streets of Kassala, Khartoum, and other towns and selling them to the Bedouins.
  • To urge the Egyptian and the Sudanese governments to respect international human rights obligations by protecting Eritrean refugees from harm’s way.
  • To support the UNHCR at Shegerab camp in Sudan to protect refugees from kidnappers and their aids.
  • In cooperation with relevant UN bodies, to initiate an inquiry into the gross human rights violations, perpetrated against the helpless Eritrean and other refugees in Egyptian Sinai.

Moreover, the Canadian government is urged to take note of the urgency of the refugee situation in Israel.

To this end, we implore the Canadian government

  • To urge the State of Israel to reconsider its proposal to deport Eritrean refugees to Eritrea where they will certainly face imminent danger to their lives.
  • To save innocent lives from certain deaths by resettling the victims of Sinai living in Egypt or Israel to Canada. Our government is urged to initiate a dialogue with Israel and the UNHCR to find a durable solution for these vulnerable Eritrean refugees, and allow resettlement of Eritrean refugees in Canada, at least those whose family members in Canada are willing to sponsor them.

With a view to end the modern-day slavery, we also urge Canadian media and NGOs to raise awareness of the atrocities Eritrean and other refugees are enduring on a daily basis in Sinai desert at the hands of human traffickers.

For more information, contact Mussie Tesfagiorgis, 204-952-1631 or Bereket Yohannes at 204-930-8675.

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