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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Eritrean Hostage Given Five Day Ultimatum by Sinai Organ Traffickers

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A human rights agency has learned that an Eritrean refugee held hostage by Bedouin traffickers for three months has been given five days to raise US$25,000 or face illegal organ harvesting.

A news release from Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said his case highlights a continuing lack of protection and assistance for refugees and migrants from the Horn of Africa, who are routinely abducted and abused by people traffickers in the Sinai Peninsular.

Philemon Semere, 22, escaped from Eritrea to Ethiopia in 2010, where he sang in the church choir in Adi Harish Refugee Camp.

Early in 2012, CSW said, he traveled to Sudan and was attempting to reach Israel when he was abducted by Rashaida traffickers, and taken to one of several torture and extortion facilities in the Sinai. He was beaten and abused regularly and at that time his captors asked him to provide US$ 33,000 to ensure his release, or lose a kidney.

CSW said in October, Semere was moved to another facility where he was subjected to electric shock torture, amongst other things. He has now been told he has five days to either produce the money, or lose a kidney.

In a telephone conversation with CSW's Special Ambassador, Rev. Stuart Windsor, a clearly distraught Semere confirmed that “if they don't get the money, they will kill me in five days.”

CSW said the abduction, torture and extortion of refugees in purpose-built facilities in the Sinai has been extensively documented since 2010. Hostages are usually bound for extended time periods, deprived of adequate food, given salty water to drink, and tortured using extreme methods. They include electric shocks and branding, while friends and relatives listen on the phone to their screams and cries for help.

CSW said women are particularly vulnerable to abuse, including gang rape. Some hostages have been used for slave labor. Initially, demands for payment ranged between US$3000 and US$8000, but have increased greatly.

When payments don’t arrive, vital organs are illegally harvested in unsanitary conditions, usually resulting in the death of the person concerned.

Windsor said in the news release, “Our heartfelt prayers are with Philemon Semere as he faces this horrific ultimatum. The abduction and torture of human beings for profit and the illegal traffic in their organs is one of the most abhorrent forms of modern slavery and an appalling affront to human dignity. The continuation of this phenomenon is a terrible indictment of the failure of several signatories to international and regional refugee conventions to provide adequate protection for this vulnerable community.”

Windsor added, “CSW urges the Egyptian authorities to act decisively to rescue Semere and others in his position, and to combat trafficking by ensuring perpetrators are brought to justice. However, we also recognize that trafficking is an international crime that spans national borders, and therefore call for concerted international action to bring this appalling phenomenon to an end.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.

For further information, visit


Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "Homeless in the City."

Additional details on "Homeless in the City" are available at Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at

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