Ethiopian Bishops to UN: “The crying voices of migrants in the Sinai are getting louder and louder at our doors”
GENEVA, 6 June 2011—Ethiopian Bishops’ Conference Secretary General and ICMC member, Abba Hagos Hayish, made 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.
“As I am talking now, some 400 African migrants and refugees are being held hostage in Rafah, near the border of Israel and the Gaza strip”, remarked Fr. Hagos at a parallel event to the 17th session of the Human Rights Council last week, and in a statement read to the full UN Human Rights Council on June 6th.
Most of those being held have fled war, violence or persecution in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan or other parts of Africa. Over the course of their flight, they face horrific brutality from traffickers, as well as detention and shootings from security forces at entry and exit points along the borders.
“If their fate is like that of the hundreds of others kidnapped in the Sinai this past year”, asserted Fr. Hagos, “each will be held until they pay as much as $10,000 USD or more in ransom. We know that many will be held for months—some underground or in containers. Many will be beaten, burned, whipped and raped repeatedly, often while their relatives are forced to listen on the telephone.”
The event, organized by the International Catholic Migration Commission and attended by dozens of government, UN and civil society actors, shed light on the need to confront kidnapping and sexual assault amongst migrants hurt in transit, with a special focus on northeast Africa and the Americas. Panel presentations by Fr. Hagos and Amnesty International representative, Peter Splinter, were given added dimension by recorded testimonies of migrants in Mexico, which were shown through excerpts of the Amnesty International film, “The Invisibles”.
Similar reports of kidnappings, ransom and abuse of migrants have been shared by ICMC members in South and South East Asia, by Scalibrinian missionaries working with migrants throughout Mexico and by the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, who recently asked ICMC to join them in drawing attention to the skyrocketing phenomena of kidnapping and assault of migrants and refugees of all nationalities moving north to the United States—and to the threats made against those defending the migrants. Last month, ICMC presented a formal report and recommendations calling for better protection of these migrants and their defenders to the UN Committee on Migrant Workers in its review of the periodic report by the government of Mexico.
“The suffering stories of migrants are our stories”, stressed Fr. Hagos, who attended the UN Human Rights Council session on human trafficking and later met with officials of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.
“The migrants are part of our global human family and it is time that every nation, every leader within our international community, begin to understand 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.”
See also Fr. Hagos' statement to the UN, available here.
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Photo credit: ICMC/C. Salim/2011
Appel des Evêques éthiopiens à l’ONU: « Les voix suppliantes des migrés dans le Sinaï sont de plus en plus fortes à nos portes » (456.64 KB)
Los Obispos etíopes se dirigen a las Naciones Unidas: “Las voces suplicantes de los migrantes en el Sinaí llaman cada vez más fuerte a nuestras puertas” (452.08 KB)