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Report finds Eritrea's military involved in human trafficking to Sudan

A team of Dutch and Swedish researchers released a report [text, press release] on Wednesday which concluded that senior military officers in Eritrea are kidnapping Eritrean children and smuggling them into Sudan. The report, entitled "The Human Trafficking Cycle: Sinai and Beyond," was released and presented during a hearing at the European Parliament [official website]. The report includes firsthand testimony from alleged victims, as well as results from on-the-ground investigations. The researchers concluded [Guardian report] that between 2007 and 2012, some 25,000 to 30,000 people were trafficked, though it is estimated that 5,000 to 10,000 of the hostages died or were killed in captivity. The authors of the report call for the EU and other countries in the region to give asylum to the victims of these acts, as well as reform their immigration policies to ensure long-term safety of victims. The authors also aimed to remind countries in the region that international covenants provide for a duty of non-refoulement, meaning that countries have an obligation not to return individuals to a country in which they face substantial threats of persecution. The report is the first ever publication of first-hand accounts of the human trafficking allegedly carried out by Eritrea's Border Surveillance Unit under the command of General Teklai Kifle.

Approximately 300,000 Eritrean refugees fled the country in 2012 alone, and the UN Refugee Agency estimates [UNHCR report] that between two and three thousand people attempt to escape every month, though the journey is often life-threatening. Last month UN Special Rapporteur Sheila Keetharuth [official website] urged [JURIST report] the Eritrean government to respect its obligation to human rights, and called for protection for the hundreds of thousands of citizens currently fleeing the country for safety. In October human rights experts from the UN, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe [official websites] called for global cooperation [JURIST report] in the fight against the transnational trafficking of persons. Also in October, Keetharuth appealed [JURIST report] to the international community to keep the Eritrean human rights situation in focus and to increase efforts to aid refugees. In 2012 UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned Eritrea [JURIST report] for its failure to address human rights violations in the country. These sentiments came on the heels of the US State Department [official website] Trafficking in Persons Report 2009 [text], which added Eritrea and five other countries to its list of countries with the worst human trafficking records.

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