By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
December 5, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - A new report published on Wednesday claims that Eritrean and Sudanese military officers are jointly working on trafficking thousands of Eritrean children who are being held hostage for ransom in Sudan and further sold on to a trafficking network in Sinai, Egypt.
The report titled: “The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond”, said Eritrea’s Border Surveillance Unit (BSU), which is under the command of General Teklai Kifle locally known as ‘Teklai Manjus’ is responsible for the human trafficking operations of children who, according to the report, are even as young as two or three years old.
Researchers, by Prof. Mirjam van Reisen, Meron Estefanos and Prof. Conny Rijken,
said the children are abducted and first smuggled to neighbouring Sudan where captives are asked to raise as much as 10,000 dollars or are threatened to be sold to Bedouin traffickers in Sinai.
The children, the report for the Europe External Policy Advisors alleges, are sold with the help of Sudanese military officers who collude with Sinai smugglers.
Once they are in the hands of Bedouin traffickers, the children are often subjected to torture and different forms of inhuman treatments so as to push their relatives to pay the demanded ransom.
An Eritrean opposition official on Friday told Sudan Tribune that if relatives fail to raise the money the children either are tortured to death or will be subjected to organ harvesting such as to the extraction of kidneys.
According to the report, between 2007 and 2012 up to 30,000 children were trafficked from inside Eritrea.
Many others were also kidnapped from refugee camps in Sudan.
An estimated 5,000 to 10,000 hostages have died in captivity. Many who managed to pay the ransom were also among the victims.
Among the several kidnapping incidents the report mentioned on the kidnapping of 211 children in October 2013 from a camp in Sudan.
Captors then demanded a ransom of $10,000 per head to release the children.
According to the study, some $600 million have been extorted in ransoms during the past five years.
Most of the children who are freed after the ransom payout are arrested by Egyptian security and are jailed indefinitely.
Every month, an average of 3,000 Eritreans cross borders to Sudan fleeing repression by regime in Asmara.
Currently there are nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees at a camp in eastern Sudan.
The study by the Swedish and Dutch researchers was based on the interviews with 230 Eritreans who survived the trafficking and the torture in Sinai.
The report has been presented to the European Union parliament.