Egypt defends its cold blood murder of Ethiopian migrants

By Daniel Williams | Bloomberg

In the face of international human rights criticism of recent killings, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said the deaths of Ethiopian and other African migrants trying to cross from the Sinai peninsula into Israel are justified for security reasons.

Four migrants were killed trying to enter Israel July 9, bringing the death toll in the Sinai to 12 since May.

“Dealing with these migrants is for Egyptian national security and the safety of its forces and Egypt’s international commitment to fight smuggling,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki said in a statement today. “Egyptian guards only fire in the direction of the migrants when they refuse to stop in this sensitive area of the borders.”

On Sept. 10, Human Rights Watch, the New York-based monitoring group, called on Egypt to “bring an immediate end to the unlawful killings of migrants and asylum seekers.”

“Egypt has every right to manage its borders, but using routine lethal force against unarmed migrants — and potential asylum-seekers — would be a serious violation of the right to life,” Joe Stork, deputy HRW Middle East director, said in a statement. “These individuals appeared to pose no threat to the lives of border guards or anyone else. Attempted border crossings are not a capital offense.”

Migrant traffic through Egypt to Israel largely originates in Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea, all beset by warfare in recent years, said Gasser Abdel Razek, Egypt country director for Africa and Middle East Refugee Assistance, a U.K.-based legal aid group. “They are heading to Israel because they think they can get better consideration for political asylum than in Egypt,” he said in an interview in Cairo.

Israel Criticized

Human Rights Watch said that Egyptian security forces killed 33 migrants at the border between July 2007 and October 2008. HRW also criticized Israel, saying it was “forcibly returning to Egypt, in violation of international refugee law, some migrants who do make it across the border.”

Since February 2008, Israel has deported thousands of African migrants to Egypt on grounds they are economic and not political refugees, according to media reports from Israel.

Last month, smugglers ferrying migrants to Israel killed an Egyptian policeman at the border, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said. On Sept. 9, the independent Cairo newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm quoted North Sinai Governor Muhammed Shousha as saying of the refugees, “Firing at them is only normal. When an infiltrator is spotted, he has to be fired at. If the soldier asks the infiltrator to stop, he normally won’t be obeyed. That’s why there has to be the use of force by those responsible.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Williams in Cairo at

8 comments on “Egypt defends its cold blood murder of Ethiopian migrants

  1. Mohammed Ali on

    The Egyptions would not have done what they did (murdering Ethiopians)while Mengistu was at the peak of his power.

  2. Ethiopian on

    Egyptians never sleep when its comes about Ethiopians, they hate us to death. Specially when we have a government that is our own enemy that never says a thing and never takes an action in favor of its own citizens, arch enemies like the Egyptians kill us with pleasure and freedom. I miss those great Kings who taught a lesson for our enemies at the time like this. I really do miss them.

  3. both eritreas and ethiopians have neen killed by egypt security force they killed women too! one day they gonna pay for it! peace for eri and ethio brothers!!

  4. Abdullah Hussein on

    This is not the first time the Egyptions killing Ethiopians trying to cross to Israel. In some ways we have to blame ourselves for such killings. We let the Egyptions use the Nile river for thousand of years without having any thing in return while some of our people are always hit by severe draught and starvation. Had we voiced our protest to the Egyptions on their first killing, may be the present killing would not have happened. It is time that every Ethiopian a diaspora or otherwise should stand up against such atrocities.

  5. Yacubu Dongo on

    I am from Ghana. The rulers in Ethiopia at least should condeme what the Egyption did. Meles is self proclaimed peace keeper in Somalia while his fellow Ethiopians including women are mistreated not only in Egypt, but also in several gulf Arab countries.

  6. ephrem on

    Do not except melese to cry foul when the egyptians kill his enemy.Would you mohammed and ethiopian cry foul if someome kill your enemy for you?

  7. Tizibt on

    Why is Egypt allowed to flaunt International Law? What makes them special? If it was a poor African country committing the same inhuman action, the Western powers would be clamouring to have it punished. Ethiopians within Ethiopia and abroad support Human Rights Watch as it is one of the few Organizations which stands for the rights of poor and persecuted peoples of the world. It is despicable that the powerful West which purports to support justice and democratic rights of peoples turns a blind eye to the plight of those trying to flee from despotic governments.

  8. Shimew on

    The shooting of unarmed refugees by Egyptians was not, as they tried to explain an act of protecting their border or national interest.

    Egyptians have time and again spelled out that they would use force in the settlement of any dispute relating to the Nile, insisting on the status quo when the British ruled Egypt and the Sudan that would entitle them to be the soul users of the Nile. These statements were levelled in no uncertain terms at Ethiopia as about 80 percent of the Nile’s flow originates in Ethiopia.

    This show of force using bullets against the weakest of the weak who had been enfeebled by several days of starvation and adversities is indeed meant to send the signal that they, the Egyptians, could use force with their dealings with Ethiopians and get away with it.

    The cause of any Ethiopian would not be served with those in power in Ethiopia currently as they are openly hostile to any person identified as Ethiopian anywhere in the world.

    On several occasions in the middle east Ethiopian embassy staff have refused to protest in behalf of Ethiopian workers who were treated inhumanely by either openly siding with the perpetrators or saying the embassy did not recognise the person as Ethiopian even though they had facilitated their employment and travel to that country. As a result Ethiopians are subjected to worse abuse than say a Bangladeshi or an Indian whose diplomatic mission proudly protects them.

    The shooting and death of Ethiopians in Egypt no doubt is atleast partly due to the absence of any advocate for the interests of Ethiopians as individuals and Ethiopia as a nation. The Egyptians know it, the Sudanese know it, and we know it!

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