Egypt: Trafficking of Refugee Organs in Sinai

This post is part of our special coverage on Refugees.

International human rights groups, including those in Israel, have made serious allegations that African refugees are being held for ransom, tortured, and also fall victim to trafficking. The Israeli Physicians for Human Rights, for example, reports that “Hundreds of refugees are still being held captive in the Sinai” and “experience physical abuse, torture, systematic rape and even death, all with the objective to obtain tens of thousands of dollars in ransom money in exchange for their release.”

Of particular concern, however, is a recent CNN report that says an illegal trade in human organs is also flourishing. The investigation quotes a tribal leader as saying “organ trade is the second most profitable trade behind only weapons trade. It brings in more money than drug dealing and prostitution.”

[WARNING: Graphic video]



israel matzav comments on the news:

There is organ theft in our region and it goes on along the Egyptian-Israeli border. You knew it all along, didn't you? Oh wait – you didn't because you listened to Carl Bildt and Donald Bostrom and you thought it was the Jooos who steal organs. Well, it's not. It's the Arab Bedouin residents of the Northern Sinai peninsula. And they're stealing organs from African refugees.

As does The Jewish Daily Forward:

Egyptian Bedouin smugglers are reportedly killing African migrants who are attempting to infiltrate into Israel for their organs. More precisely, the Bedouins are drugging migrants who cannot pay their high smuggling fees, opening them up, harvesting their organs, and then leaving them to die in the Sinai.


The Jerusalem Post refers to a CNN report quoting a source that said that mobile clinics with advanced equipment come from a private hospital in Cairo and conduct examinations on the migrants to determine which would be the best sources for healthy organs. Then the surgery is performed on the spot in the middle of the desert. The doctors pay $20,000 and up per organ to the Sawarka tribe.

Jerusalem Diaries:In Tense Times is one of many blogs which has published what it says is a letter from an Israeli reservist serving on the border with Egypt:

Several years ago, a trend started of African refugees crossing the Egyptian border from Sinai into Israel to seek asylum from the atrocities in Darfur. What started out as a small number of men, women and children fleeing from the machetes of the Janjaweed and violent fundamentalists to seek a better life elsewhere, turned into an organized industry of human trafficking. In return for huge sums of money, sometimes entire life savings paid to Bedouin “guides,” these refugees are promised to be transported from Sudan, Eritrea, and other African countries through Egypt and the Sinai desert, into the safe haven of Israel.

We increasingly hear horror stories of the atrocities these refugees suffer on their way to freedom. They are subject to, and victims of extortion, rape, murder, and even organ theft, their bodies left to rot in the desert. Then, if lucky, after surviving this gruesome experience whose prize is freedom, when only a barbed wire fence separates them from Israel and their goal, they must go through the final death run and try to evade the bullets of the Egyptian soldiers stationed along the border. Egypt’s soldiers are ordered to shoot to kill anyone trying to cross the border OUT of Egypt and into Israel. It’s an almost nightly event.

Rebel With A Cause, an Egyptian blog, is also alarmed:

Egyptian human rights organizations have raised concerns about torture, rape and human trafficking of African refugees in Sinai before, but officials didn’t want to admit it or take any actions. The situation seems to continue as it is and our government doesn’t want to intervene to stop this tragedy.

Unfortunately, we have a bad history in dealing with refugees in Egypt. Refugees leave their countries running away from wars, prosecution or dire economic conditions to face other hardships in Egypt. […]


This tragic situation cannot continue any longer. Immediate action must be taken from the government to stop those grave violations. It's horrible that those men, women and children flee their country to save their lives and find themselves in equally dangerous conditions or worse.More attention should be directed to refugees and their situation to end the dire condition that they suffer from.

Protesters in front of the USA embassy demonstrate against illegal trafficking of Eritrean refugees allegedly killed while crossing the Sinai. Image by carlos van as, copyright Demotix (25/11/11).

Protesters in front of the USA embassy demonstrate against illegal trafficking of Eritrean refugees allegedly killed while crossing the Sinai. Image by carlos van as, copyright Demotix (25/11/11).

A petition to Stop Organ Trafficking of Refugees in Egypt is online here.

This post is part of our special coverage on Refugees.


Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.