By: Joseph Mayton
The Egyptian foreign ministry on Saturday could not confirm or deny the alleged abduction of around 250 Eritreans in the Sinai Peninsula by smugglers. The country’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said the government has no information over the reports that there were hostages in the desert.
“The interior ministry, which is always in contact with the foreign ministry, has no information whatsoever about reports that hundreds of Eritreans are held hostage in Sinai,” Abul Gheit said in a press statement.
Abul Gheit said “whoever has proof should come forth” and share the information, dismissing as unacceptable unsubstantiated reports “from any foreign, European or religious” source.
“On the contrary, what we know is that a group of Eritreans tried to enter Italy from Libya and were returned there and after that some of them infiltrated into Egypt,” he told reporters.
The United Nations refugee agency has urged the Egyptian government to assist in helping to secure the release of Eritreans allegedly abducted for the past month by traffickers in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
We are, at this time, in contact with the Egyptian Government over this matter,” Adrian Edwards, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Egypt’s Ministry of Interior has assured us that around the clock efforts are underway to locate the hostages and release them.”
According to rights activists in Eritrea, over 200 Eritrean Christians have been held hostage by smugglers on the Egyptian-Israeli border for the past month.
Bikya Masr could not substantiate the claims and the Egyptian foreign ministry said they had no comment on the situation.
Bos News Life (BNL) Middle East and African Services published a report that said that Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a religious rights group, cited investigators as saying that smugglers are demanding payment of $8,000 per refugee before releasing them.
The organization said that as a result of crack downs in Eritrea, many Christians are looking for a new start in another country. Israel has become the main country where African migrants attempt to enter.
“We have noted media reports that the traffickers are demanding payments of 8,000 dollars (6,040 euros) per person for their release, that people are being held in containers and are subject to abuses,” a statement in Geneva from the UN refugee body said.
(Source: https://bikyamasr.com/wordpress/?p=23347 )