EGYPT

Crossing the desert to get to Israel

One of our Observers in the northern town of Sheikh Zouwayd, in the Sinai desert, has passed on footage of illegal immigrants crossing the perilous border into Israel. It's a trip from which some never return.

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One of our Observers in the northern town of Sheikh Zouwayd, in the Sinai desert, has passed on footage of illegal immigrants crossing the perilous border into Israel. It's a trip from which some never return.  

Israel, which shares a 200km-long border with Egypt, has become something of an El Dorado for Africans seeking to flee the miseries of war and poverty in their own countries. Hundreds of Sudanese refugees from Darfur, where war has been raging since 2003, can be found making their way towards the Jewish state and across the porous border. According to a report by the NGO Human Rights Watch, up to 100 people make the crossing from Egypt to Israel in a single night.  

Israel has recently galvanised a security fence on the border in the hope of putting a stop to the wave of immigration, and also to drug trafficking and the infiltration of suicide bombers from the Gaza Strip who detour through the Sinai desert.

The report by Human Rights Watch counts 10 fatalities in 2007 and 23 in 2008; the majority of them are Sudanese and Eritrean, killed by Egyptian frontier guards.

Israeli-Egyptian border

Posted on Flickr by José Maldonado

"Bedouin people smugglers help them to get across the frontier"

Ashraf Al-Anany is a writer and blogger from Sheikh Zouwayd in the north-east Sinai desert. He passed on the video to The Observers.

Israel, surrounded by Arab countries, has twice reached out a hand to immigrants in the past. There were two big waves of immigration. The first - the Russians in the 1990s - quickly got out of control; a lot of the immigrants turned to organised crime.

The second is that of the Africans, particularly Sudanese trying to flee the Darfur conflict. For these illegal immigrants, Israel is closer than Europe and crossing tariffs much cheaper. It costs between 880 and 1,800 euros here, whereas in Europe it's 20,000 [5,000 according to our information].

The immigrants get into Egypt with a tourist visa and make their way to the Sinai desert where Bedouin people smugglers help them to get across the border. Recently however, forces on both sides of the border have been on high alert. We recently found the body of an African on the border. He was perhaps killed in the crossfire between the smugglers and the Egyptian forces. The smugglers are generally very discreet in their dealings and despised by the Sinai population."

The video

Video posted on the "anani12" blog.