CAIRO: The death of seven African migrants at the hands of smugglers and police in Sinai last Friday has angered Bedouin activists who have called for better protection for them in the peninsula.
The seven Eritreans were killed from a shootout last Friday as they attempted to escape the clutches of smugglers who had promised to transport them across the border into Israel when they failed, held them hostage in Sinai until they paid more money.
The smugglers killed four of the Africans during violent clashes, while two were later shot by Egyptian border guards as they tried to enter Israel. An Eritrean woman died in hospital from her wounds two days later.
Khalil Jabr Sawarkeh, speaking on behalf of the popular committee for the rights of Sinai citizens, told Daily News Egypt, “It is becoming extremely painful and tragic and we can’t be silent anymore. The smugglers exploit them, and by not taking action it’s as if the state is encouraging the killing of migrants.”
“Even as a Bedouin myself, I say that any tribesmen who are involved in this sort of thing are involved in a heinous crime and should be brought to justice,” he added.
Around 22 migrants were detained by Egyptian security forces in the wake of the shootout and a search was launched for the rest of the group, estimated to be 60 in total.
An official told AFP that four managed to cross the border into Israel on Saturday while five were arrested as they attempted to do so, with another two wounded at the border.
Sawarkeh criticized the state for the recurring number of African deaths with no accountability. “Rights and advocacy groups are needed in the area to ensure that those migrants are treated humanely if caught.”
Some African migrants attempt to enter Israel in search of job prospects and pay smugglers in Sinai up to $1,000 to transport them across the border. Almost every incident in which they are caught results in shots being fired at them.
The death toll of illegal migrants attempting to enter Israel has reached 29 in the wake of Friday’s incident, 24 of them shot by border guards. This total is in addition to the 19 Africans killed at the border in 2009.
Human rights groups have condemned the treatment of African migrants in Sinai but the death toll has seen no sign of abatement.