African refugees to Israel report threats of organ theft in Sinai
African refugees attempting to reach Israel have claimed that the Egyptian Bedouin people-smugglers have threatened to steal their organs, unless they or their families paid money, a spokeswoman for a human rights charity said Sunday.
At least 27 refugees have recently made such allegations, the spokeswoman for Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) Israel, Yael Marom, told dpa.
Marom said her organization had no concrete proof of organ theft however.
But PHR Israel earlier this year published a survey based on interviews with 284 asylum seekers who made it to Israel.
Some 44 per cent said they witnessed violence and/or fatalities of other asylum seekers while they were in the Sinai and the vast majority (88 per cent) stated they experienced severe hunger and food deprivation.
Most (66 per cent) reported that they were denied access to water. And many women have asked for abortions after being raped.
More than half said they were held captive and shackled by their smugglers and subjected to serious violence. Some 15 per cent had scars and signs of violence on their bodies from the torture they suffered in Sinai.
Every year, thousands of refugees, mostly from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan, attempt the dangerous journey from their war-torn countries to Israel in search of economic prosperity and stability, it said.
CNN had also reported earlier this month that Bedouin smugglers involved in people-trafficking are believed to be stealing organs from refugees who are unable to pay demands for large amounts of cash to take them into Israel.
Two rights groups helping African refugees, New Generation Foundation for Human Rights and the EveryOne Group from Italy, have presented evidence, CNN reported. The evidence included photographs from a morgue in the Egyptian port town of al-Arish, showing scars in the abdomens of refugees who did not make it.
The Sawarka Bedouin tribe, one of the largest in the Sinai peninsula, was named by one Bedouin source as being involved in organ thefts.
A Sawarka leader said he was aware that people trafficking was going on in Sinai and that in some cases refugees were held in bonded labor and tortured. But he added only rogue elements of his tribe were involved, CNN said.
More than 10,000 African refugees illegally entered Israel in 2011, according to Israeli immigration authorities.