Unreported World: Breaking into Israel 

The Times

Migrants risk kidnap and death for desert trek into ‘rich’ Israel

Eritreans at a holding house in the desert, waiting for the last leg of their trek into Israel

Ramita Navai Sanai Desert

June 3 2011

Deep in the Sinai Desert in a secret location surrounded by sand dunes, more than 100 Eritrean men, women and children are packed into a low-brick building known as a “holding house”. It has taken them more than a month to get here, smuggled by Beduin nomads hundreds of miles from the border of Sudan.

Scared and tired, they lie on the ground, waiting for the final part of their journey: the attempt to cross the border into Israel. They have each paid $2,000 (£1,200) to be hidden under piles of fruit and vegetables in pick-up trucks and driven for hours in blistering heat. “Before we met our smugglers, we walked across the desert for weeks with no water, no food. Many died,” said Tadsse, one of the migrants. “But Israel is rich and there are jobs there.”

The smugglers will drive Tadsse and the others to the border where the migrants will make a run for it. Egyptian border guards have been accused of a shoot-to-kill policy — 86 people have been reported killed attempting to cross, but human rights groups claim the number is much higher. Once in Israel, if captured within 30 miles (50km) of the border, the migrants can be handed to the Egyptian authorities, then detained or sent back home where Eritreans face prison and torture for having left the country illegally.

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