Egyptian security officials have turned the Sinai border into a "death zone" for African migrants, International Human Rights Watch claimed in their investigative report published Wednesday on the three deaths in the past week in Sinai when two refugees were shot to death on Saturday and another one on Monday.
The group listed 12 migrants killed by Egyptian migrants since the beginning of the year and 69 since 2007. According to the report, Egypt also arrested a number of refugees last month, at least one of whom is designated missing by the organization. At least two of the migrants being held by Egypt, refugees from Darfur, are facing deportation back to their countries where they will likely face arrest and even torture.
"Egyptian guards have made the Sinai border a death zone for migrants trying to flee the country," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. "What's more, the Egyptian government has not investigated even a single case of the 69 killings of migrants by border guards since 2007."
Following these allegations, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement claiming "the number of deaths in these incidents did not exceed 2 percent in 2008 and 4 percent in 2009 of the total number of migrants attempting to cross."
Many Africans seeking asylum and work infiltrate from Sinai into Israel. The lion's share of the migrants come from Eritrea, but Ethiopians and Sudanese also make the trek.
On March 2, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that she knew "of no other country where so many unarmed migrants and asylum seekers appear to have been deliberately killed in this way by government forces."
Egypt claims that the infiltrators pose a threat to Egypt's national security because organized crime groups are using the border with Israel to smuggle drugs and people across the border. To this end, they also contend that Egyptian troops only use force when necessary. Human Rights Watch does not accept these claims.