Published: 14:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 08 June 2011
Tortured, beaten, raped, kidnapped, imprisoned: Eritrean Christian refugees in Egypt need your help
Barnabas Fund is helping Eritrean Christian refugees who have fled the brutal regime of their homeland to Egypt where hundreds are in prison or taken hostage for ransom, and subjected to torture, beatings and sexual assault.
Burial place of murdered Eritrean Christian refugee in Egypt
They risk their lives escaping Eritrea, which can be regarded as the second worst place in the world to be a Christian, after North Korea. Christians, particularly evangelicals, are tortured and imprisoned in notoriously horrendous conditions for their faith; they are viewed as a threat to national unity because they give their ultimate allegiance to God and not to the state.
Those who manage to escape often flee to Egypt, where hundreds of refugees arrive every month, with the aim of crossing its border into Israel. Channel Four’s Unreported World highlighted the desperate plight of Eritrean refugees on Friday (3 June). The programme, “Breaking into Israel”, exposed how they are forced to put themselves in the hands of people-smugglers and make the arduous 900-mile journey across the Sinai desert. Some die along the way; others are shot dead as they attempt to cross the Egypt-Israel border; and those who are caught are sent home to almost certain torture and death.
Imprisoned or held hostage
The majority of Eritrean refugees are Christians. Many end up in Egyptian prisons or being held hostage for ransom by Bedouin Muslim nomads, who work with the traffickers, in the deserts of Sinai. There are currently around 500-600 Eritrean prisoners in Egyptian custody and an estimated 100-200 in the hands of traffickers, who have been less restricted in their criminal activities since the Egyptian revolution in January. The hostage-takers are now demanding up to US$20,000 per person for their release; if their families don’t pay, the hostage is killed and there are unconfirmed reports that the captors are turning to forced organ harvesting, especially if the ransom is not paid. Unwary Eritreans are also being kidnapped from UN refugee camps in Sudan.
The refugees suffer inhumane treatment, including rape, sexual harassment, torture, beatings and slavery at the hands of the Egyptian authorities or the Bedouin gangs. Those in prison are denied medical care, suffer malnutrition as a result of meagre daily rations such as a piece of bread and a tomato, and have restricted access to visitors. Christians receive more severe treatment than Muslim prisoners because of their faith. Some have consequently adopted common Muslim names in an effort to alleviate their suffering.
Barnabas is helping
Barnabas Fund is supporting Christian refugees from Eritrea in Egypt. Our grant is being used to provide medicine and basic necessities such as food, clothes and sanitary products for prisoners including children; medical expenses, such as for a woman with kidney failure; and legal costs to secure the release of some of the most vulnerable prisoners such as women with children or those with health problems. With the help of Barnabas Fund, three people have recently been released, and legal fees have been paid to the prison so that 23 prisoners can be seen and registered by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Four women who were abandoned in a seriously injured state by traffickers in the Sinai desert following a car accident are also receiving support for medical treatment and food. A fifth member of their group had sadly died of her injuries.
Our project partners said:
The reason why Eritreans are being abused... is varied but almost always involves the fact that they are predominantly of Christian belief... The situation on the ground is expected to keep on deteriorating while the number of refugees is increasing.
Towards the end of 2010, an Eritrean governor ordered an “end of year purge” against Christians; the number of refugees in Egypt is growing as the danger intensifies.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, said:
The suffering of our brothers and sisters from Eritrea is unimaginable. They are in great danger from their government, which is one of the most severe persecutors of Christians in the world, and if they flee in the hope of a better life elsewhere, they face imprisonment, kidnap, torture, rape, beatings and even death. They desperately need our help today.
If you prefer to telephone, dial: 0800 587 4006 from within the UK or +44 1672 565031 from outside the UK. Please quote project reference 12-954 (Eritrean refugees in Egypt).
For a quick donation of £3.00 by SMS (see terms and conditions here) text Barnabas/954 to 70007 (Please note: This facility is presently only available to UK supporters).
- That the Eritrean government will cease to regard Christians as a threat, so that they will not be forced to flee their homeland into dangerous situations in other countries.
- That the Egyptian authorities will exert themselves to safeguard the human rights of the Eritrean Christians and ensure their safety and protection as they travel through Egypt.
- For our brothers and sisters in prison or captivity, that they will know the Lord’s presence and peace with them and will soon be set free.
- For full healing of the physical and emotional wounds suffered by the four women in the car accident; one of them has brain damage and amnesia.