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HRW Calls on Egypt to Stop Using Shoot-To-Kill against African Migrants in Sinai
Published in Almasry Alyoum on 13 - 11 - 2008

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized Egypt for using “shoot-to-kill” against African migrants and refugees that attempt to cross into Israel along the porous Sinai border.
It also criticized the Israeli government for forcibly returning those migrants to Egypt, which is considered an "unsafe country for migrants", as HRW put it.
Egyptian border guards have shot and killed at least 33 migrants since July 2007, and Israel forcibly returned 139 migrants to Egypt of which we know nothing till now, HRW said in a report released on Wednesday in Cairo.
Joe Stork, Human Rights Watch's deputy Middle East director, said: "Officials in Egypt justify those accidents on the ground that they are unintended errors because the policeman who stands alone in Sinai fears from any unnatural movement, especially as Sinai is a dangerous place and full of terrorists."
"We can justify killing if it was a single accident, but with this great number, the matter seems as a policy. I'm sorry to say that I did not find any kind of change in the Egyptian government's way of thinking or assessing the issue."
"It seems that there is an announced policy to shoot the migrants to stop them although this imposes danger to their lives," he added.
In fact, the Sinai border is a perilous region rife with weapons and drug smugglers. The Egyptian government has long been criticized by Israel for failing to prevent weapons smuggling to Gazan militants through Sinai tunnels. 
“We recognize that Sinai is a dangerous place," Van Esveld said, "but in the cases we investigated, there was no threat being posed by the people who were shot at.”
"Unfortunately, Cairo does not know how the issue is dangerous," he said, adding that during his meeting two days ago with the Egyptians they said: "What such people can expect in an area like Sinai. It is a dangerous place and migrants should know that they would be exposed to danger as they can be exposed to danger in New York for example."
The report also slammed the Egyptian government for not allowing African refugees to make asylum claims, for trying them in military courts and for deporting hundreds of them to conflict zones.  
The report, titled “Sinai Perils: Risks to Migrants, Refugees and Asylum seekers in Egypt and Israel,” also criticizes Israel for returning African refugees and asylum seekers back to Egypt.
“Both Egypt and Israel have responded to this cross-border flow with policies that violate fundamental rights,” said the report.
“Despite the violations of refugee rights on the Egyptian side, Israel had returned many people back to the custody of the Egyptian border police,” added Van Esveld.
The report emphasized that Egypt began a shoot-to-stop policy following a meeting between the Israeli prime minister and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in late June 2007. In the meeting, the two leaders discussed the flow of refugees into Israel from Egypt.
“We are not saying that Israel ordered Egypt to kill people; there is no evidence of that,” explained Van Esveld, “but what we are saying is that it seems that Egypt has responded to Israeli pressures with this policy of lethal force.” 
For his part, Michael Kagan, professor with the American University, voiced disappointment over the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees' silence and not taking any steps to protect the refugees and migrants. "We thought that Egypt and Israel will be the safe shelter for the refugees, but this image has been shaken," he added.
"I had two choices, the first was going to Europe through Libya and in this case I might drown. The second choice was going to Israel and in this case I might be shot. I preferred to be shot rather than drown," a Sudanese migrant, who lived in Egypt for a long time, said.


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