It's almost a year since I wrote a series of blog posts about the scandal of human trafficking in the Sinai desert of Egypt, and the Mubarak regime's ludicrous denials than anything untoward was happening (here, here, here and here).
Well, the trafficking is still going on though there are a few small signs of progress. In an email yesterday, Matteo Pegoraro of the Italian-based Every One Group – one of the organisations campaigning on this issue – described the latest developments:
"The UNHCR has confirmed that 611 Eritrean refugees were released without ransom by the traffickers in Northern Sinai, and are currently in Israel.
"EveryOne Group has also learned of the violent death of the notorious trafficker in migrants and human organs, Soliman Abdalah Necklawi, known as 'The Sultan'. The smuggler was killed, according to the information we received, in a shoot-out with some Bedouins of another tribe, who were attempting to free a group of Eritrean refugees. The prisoners were freed and subsequently, according to reliable sources, headed for Israel.
"However, we know of at least 450 Eritrean migrants who have not yet been released by these gangs. Fifty-eight of these hostages are located in Serah and are in the hands of the thief known as Samih, whose family is deeply involved in the trafficking of human beings and organs.
"Another group of prisoners [migrants] is in an unidentified location in Northern Sinai. We have sent the mobile phone number of one of the young prisoners to the High Commissioner for Refugees and the Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings.
"Currently there is a strong component of the Bedouin tribes who are keen to work with the authorities and NGOs to end the odious trafficking in human beings and refugees in Northern Sinai."
Pegoraro says the International Criminal Court is continuing its investigation into the traffickers but he adds: "We must point out that the top traffickers that we reported to the international authorities are still active in their criminal affairs: their names are Samih, Abu Khaled, Abu Ahmed, Abu Abdallah, Abu Moussa, Kemal, and Abu Mohammed."
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 18 November 2011.