Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: Death in the desert

August 25, 2008 |  6:58 am

Sudanese_refugee

They sneak away from war and famine and head across the southern desert toward Cairo.

Smugglers hustle them north to the Sinai, where they crawl through tunnels and along barbed wire in attempts to reach Israel.

It is a well-trod journey thousands of Sudanese refugees and African migrants endure for a better life. But they are often arrested and shot at and sometimes killed by Egyptian border guards.

Amnesty International has asked Cairo to investigate the deaths of 25 refugees and asylum seekers killed by security forces since mid-2007. The human rights agency said Egypt had a right to protect its borders but that the country's "shameful treatment of sub-Saharan African migrants and vulnerable asylum seekers blatantly disregards international law."

In a report title "Deadly Journeys Through the Desert," the agency quotes one Sudanese arrested at the border and sentenced to a year in an Egyptian prison:

"Here it is like war for us and back home it is war also, there is no difference. We fled from death, but death is after us; we don’t know what is happening to our relatives back home in camps for the displaced. Staying there would have been better than what happened to us."

— Jeffrey Fleishman in Cairo

Photo: A Sudanese refugee with her 1-year-old son at a camp near the Egypt-Israel border. Credit: Newscom

P.S. The Los Angeles Times issues a free daily newsletter with the latest headlines from all over the Middle East, as well as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. You can subscribe by logging in at the website here, clicking on the box for "LA Times updates," and then clicking on the "World: Mideast" box.

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