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Longer, analytical article.  Sinai: The Dangers of 21st Century Migration: Trafficking in the Sinai

Summary & Comment: In Northern Africa thousands of vulnerable refugees resort to treacherous means of migrating across the Sinai desert. Though it seems the volatile harsh desert conditions are the least of their problems. Refugees are now threatened with the possibility of falling prey to illegal criminal activities. These activities include human trafficking and kidnapping...Pressure must be made for greater intervention into this crisis, and the story of those lost in the desert needs to be shared. (Winta was an intern from New COllege with Africafiles.

Author: Winta Tesfai Date Written: 15 April 2014
Primary Category: North Africa Region Document Origin: Africafiles, Student voices
Secondary Category: Human Rights Source URL: http://www.africafiles-studentvoices.org/?p=235
Key Words: Sinai, migrants, trafficking, crime, desperation

African Charter Article #12: Every individual shall have the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to leave any country, and to seek asylum. (Click for full text...)



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http://www.africafiles-studentvoices.org/?p=235

  In Northern Africa thousands of vulnerable refugees resort to treacherous means of migrating across the Sinai desert. Though it seems the volatile harsh desert conditions are the least of their problems. Refugees are now threatened with the possibility of falling prey to illegal criminal activities. These activities include human trafficking and kidnapping which has become a norm on the journey through the Sinai. Refugees are held hostage for ransom, beaten, tortured and often raped until relatives abroad are able to pay a ransom fee of up to USD 30,000-40,000. This emerging crisis has gain consistent online media since 2009, but with recent recognition by one of the world’s largest news corporations CNN the issue has been brought to the front lines of dealing with this crisis today.

With articles titled Not for sale: End Human Trafficking and Slavery, Human Trafficking in Africa a Modern Evil, The Sinai Crossing African Migrant Desert Nightmare or Death in the Desert it is of little surprise CNN joined the campaign to End Modern Day Slavery early this year. According to their website their mission and goal is to “shine a spotlight on the horrors of modern-day slavery, amplifying voices of the victims, highlighting the success stories and helping unravel the complicated tangle of criminal enterprises trading in human life”[1]. CNN’s new project to End Modern Day Slavery has granted particular attention to the recent yet accelerating activities of human trafficking in the Sinai desert.

Illegal migrants fall through the invisible cracks of migration usually resorting to dangerous and treacherous options to migrant which most often fall under the net of Transnational Criminal Networks. Transnational Criminal Networks are produced by the expanding power of globalization, and the mass transformation and convergence of technologies through rapid communication, travel, surveillance, and information access[2]. Transnational Criminal Networks are organic in nature, with increased levels of technologies groups of people find new and innovative ways of acquiring wealth this would include performing illegal operations outside the law, fraud, trafficking of humans and drugs, smuggling, and armed militias. The era of the twenty-first century is coined as the age of globalization and can be described as a narrative of human progress. Globalization is the increase flow of information, capital, innovative technologies and interaction of cultures, which is demonstrated through mechanisms such as migration. The movement of people is not a new phenomenon in our time, migration is usually initiated from an aspiration to exercise and increase social mobility. Push factors of migration include a desire to increase cross border trading, acquire housing, and seek employment. Although, legal migration only applies to those with specific citizenship status who have the ability to cross borders legally. Those who do not meet requirements of legal migration are inevitably deemed as illegal migrants.

It should be noted that Transnational Criminal Network primary mission is to acquire wealth, and recently this acquisition of wealth has emerged with an increase in human trafficking globally. According to Joe Stark the deputy director of the Middle East and North America division of Human Rights Watch thousands of Sub-Saharan asylum seekers and migrants attempting to cross in the Sinai Desert have fallen victim to abusive trafficking and other crimes[3]. Human trafficking is defined as the commoditization and exploitation of the human body and the dehumanized value of life with a price tag[4]. In addition, the United Nations define human trafficking as the “acquisition of people by improper means such as force, fraud or deception with the aim of exploiting them”[5]. It has been estimated that human trafficking is now more profitable than its parallels of moving drugs and arms

What makes this particularly interesting is that there is a trend of issues and stories being brought to light only when Western media sources provide coverage on the story. This becomes problematic when the same issues have been recognized and addressed by other media outlets and localized initiatives which do not receive recognition for their positive work. Example the African Union has created various mechanisms to combat this issue, through the AU COMMIT Campaign which is an attempt to “galvanize activities undertaken by the AU commission, including global, regional and national initiatives towards more synergized and coordinated actions to combat trafficking in persons in Africa”[6]. AU also makes a strong commitment to combating the escalating human trafficking. It seems evident that greater significance is given to certain international issues only when endorsed by Western entities. The countless articles stated previously were written pre-CNN’s launch of the End Modern Day Slavery campaign, and yet none have come nearly as close to making a major impact as CNN’s recent initiative has done. Cases such as these have become a reoccurring theme in our global history, this trend suggests that international issues and campaigns become glorified and gain large scale attention only when recognized by multi-national news companies such as CNN. Two recent examples are the save Darfur campaign and Kony 2012 which both sparked large international attention. Issues and crises only seem to be given priority and seen as legitimate cause of concern when the right sources such as CNN shed light on them.

It should be noted that CNN initiative is not a negative one, and any news attention is a positive step towards combating the issue. Although there needs to a reclaiming of greater localized and grassroots initiatives, and a move away from just waiting for large Western entities to become involved and somehow legitimize the work that is already being done.

As for the escalating human trafficking in the Sinai desert, it can only be hoped that the culprits are brought to justice. The most difficult and challenging aspect of Transnational Criminal Networks such as human traffickers is to target the criminals who exploit desperate people and to protect and assist victim of trafficking and smuggled migrants many of whom endure unimaginable hardships in their search for a better future. The governments of the surrounding borders of the Sinai which refuse to open their borders for these refugees need to also be addressed. Pressure must be made for greater intervention into this crisis, and the story of those lost in the desert needs to be shared.

[1] CNN Web 2013 http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/category/death-in-the-desert/

[2] Sanderson, T. (2004). Transnational terror and organized crime: Blurring the lines. SAIS Review, 24(1), 49-61.

[3] UN. Web. “on human trafficking and migrant smuggling” http://www.unodc.org/unodc/human-trafficking/

[4] Weldehaimanot, S. (2011, March 22). Kidnapping, hostage taking and ransoming of Eritrean asylum seekers in the sinai desert: Legal opinion sought and commissioned by release Eritrea .

[5] UN. Web. “on human trafficking and migrant smuggling” http://www.unodc.org/unodc/human-trafficking/

[6] AU COMMIT-Campaign. Web. http://www.africa-union.org/root/ua/Conferences/2009/juin/SA/16juin/sa/aicomite.html

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s) and not do necessarily reflect the views of the AfricaFiles' editors and network members. They are included in our material as a reflection of a diversity of views and a variety of issues. Material written specifically for AfricaFiles may be edited for length, clarity or inaccuracies.

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