January 23, 2012
Refugees from sub-Saharan Africa are being kidnapped, tortured and ransomed for thousands of dollars in the Egyptian Sinai in what human rights activists say is the world’s forgotten hostage crisis. Over the past year, thousands of desperate migrants from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia have been kidnapped by Bedouin tribesmen who are taking advantage of continuing instability in Egypt to ramp up their lucrative trade.
Migrants have reported being rounded up by gang members and held in specially constructed jails where they are frequently tortured until relatives in Europe or Africa come up with thousands of dollars.
Testimony compiled by human rights groups reveals that torture with electric cables and molten plastic is routinely used against victims as they make desperate calls home to plead for cash. Many kidnap victims claim to have been raped by their abductors, and there are reports that captives who have been unable to raise funds have had organs removed for sale on the black market.
Critics have accused the international community of standing idle in the midst of a kidnapping scandal that has drawn little attention compared with Somali piracy, whose victims are often white employees of multinational corporations rather than poor Africans.