Home inContext Report Details Human Trafficking in Sinai

Report Details Human Trafficking in Sinai

Michael Johnson

A new report presented to the European Parliament Wednesday details the scale of Human trafficking in Northeast Africa. The findings, entitled The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond, explains how more than 30,000 people have been abducted and held for ransom since 2007. The success of such an expansive criminal enterprise shows the continuing challenge to impose law and order Sinai.

According to testimony from Wednesday’s report, the majority of those kidnapped came from Eritrea, but victims also included from Ethiopians and Sudanese. Often Eritrea’s Border Surveillance Unit (BSU) and Sudanese security officials would collude with criminal networks operating in Sinai. The report’s authors contend that such human trafficking is only possible with the direct involvement of security officials given harsh restrictions on travel inside Eritrea. Migrants from other East African countries are also vulnerable to kidnapping- with their undocumented status they risk deportation if they report illegal activity. Furthermore, criminal groups in Sinai have extorted more than $600 million in ransoms from victims families.

African migrants enter southern Israel along the border with Egypt in December 2010. (Photo: AP)

Migration from East Africa up through Sinai to seek better economic opportunity, especially in Israel, is not uncommon. In response to increasing threats from terrorism and illegal immigration, the Israeli government recently completed a fence on the Israeli-Egyptian border.

Ultimately, illegal migration and human trafficking helps degrade the rule of law in Sinai and gives profits to groups involved in violence and other illegal activities. Egyptian officials have long struggled to contain violence from radical jihadists and other criminal gangs in areas with strong local grievances. Cooperation among neighboring states to combat transnational crime could also provide an opportunity to combat terrorism throughout the region.