UN Human Rights Council
Call for protection and assistance to migrants kidnapped and assaulted for ransom in the Sinai desert and elsewhere
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UN Human Rights Council
GENEVA, 6 June 2011—Ethiopian Bishops’ Conference Secretary General and ICMC member, Abba Hagos Hayish, makes a plea to governments, international organizations and civil society representatives gathered at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, calling for action on behalf of the hundreds of migrants kidnapped and held hostage for ransom in the Sinai desert.
Thank you for this opportunity to amplify the emphasis of the Special Rapporteur on protecting and assisting victims of human trafficking.
My name is Father Hagos. I am Secretary General of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Ethiopia, a member of the International Catholic Migration Commission.
As I am talking now, about 400 African migrants are being held hostage in Rafah, near the border of Israel and the Gaza strip. If they are like the hundreds of others kidnapped in the Sinai this past year, each will be held until they pay as much as $ 10,000 USD or more as ransom. This is on top of the $3,000 USD that the smugglers had said was enough to get to Israel or further. Even just 100 migrants each paying $10,000 will net one million dollars!
If these migrant hostages are like the others, many will be held for months, some underground or in containers: barely fed, unwashed. Men, women and children beaten, burned, whipped, and raped—repeatedly, and often after they have been forced to get their relatives to listen on the telephone. Survivors report organs being forcibly removed, and killings.
Kidnapping and assault for ransom are criminal acts over and above human smuggling and trafficking per se. National and international responses must recognize that distinction. Responses must also recognize the increasing intersection of this abuse of migrants with transnational smuggling of guns, goods and drugs, and the deepening involvement of sophisticated cross-border crime networks.
May I close then, with two requests to the Human Rights Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
First: please take up and collaborate with everyone on this. Transnational phenomena like this need transnational as well as national responses. In the Human Rights Council, the multiple special procedures, including the Special Rapporteurs on Human Trafficking and on the Rights of Migrants, and other mechanisms should convene jointly. Additional actors, including the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, should be more present in developing common responses.
Second, and most urgently, all responses should focus on the migrants in distress, with the priority being protection and assistance for victims first.
The suffering stories of migrants are our stories. They are part of our global human family. Every nation, leader, international organization and civil society partner should take the suffering of people on the move—documented or undocumented—as his or her own story. The crying voices should be heard. They are getting louder and louder at our doors.
Copies of this statement are available at the back of the room.
Call for protection and assistance to migrants kidnapped and assaulted for ransom in the Sinai desert and elsewhere (1.1 MB)