Egyptian Criminals and Israeli Racists

We've reported on the wretched treatment Eritrean refugees and other black Africans get in Israel, especially in May of 2012 when there was a race riot in Tel Aviv. It turns out there's more to the story, the participation of Egyptian criminals in the Sinai.

There's a whole hour piece done on National Public Radio about a woman born in Eritrea, Meron Estefanos, who was given a tip about the kidnappers. In late 2011 she called a number and the kidnappers let her hear from some of the 28 hostages who they tortured. The kidnapper demanded $20,000 per person.

It seems that Eritreans were fleeing to Sudan or were promised work there. What happened was that they were captured in the Sudan and taken by gangs to the Sinai who had a kidnapping racket.

Estefanos, who is a freelance writer and who did radio spots in an Eritrean language. She started writing and broadcasting. She contacted the Egyptian government ( a time when there was basically no effective Egyptian government) and refugee agencies. The kidnappers would brazenly call Estefanos at any time day or night. They didn't care who knew their phone number.

Eventually she realized nothing was going to be done. She had her doubts about the whole thing, but she decided she would try to raise money to pay ransom. This she did and after a number of payments some of the hostages were freed. The kidnappers would take the Eritreans and dump them off at the Egypt-Israel border and take off.

The Eritreans would go into Israel, most eventually going to Tel Aviv.

Nobody, except Mero Estefanos and the people who gave her money come off well in the story.

The reporters explain that Israel gives almost no one political asylum and won't even process applications by Eritreans. It tells of the wall the Israel built to keep anyone from crossing over to Israel from Sinai. And it explains that Israel is seeking to deport all the Eritreans back to Eritrea.

And why are so many Eritreans desperate to leave their country? Back in the '80 the Middle East Crisis Committee worked with a number of Eritreans who helped the movement fighting the Ethiopian occupation of their country. We admired the EPLF who fought the then Soviet aligned dictatorship without turning to "the West" for help. But something afterwards has evidently gone very wrong.

You can listen to the whole show by clicking here.