CAIRO: Egypt must stop using lethal force against migrants attempting to cross its border with Israel, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report issued this week.
The report, “Slow Movement: Protection of Migrants’ Rights in 2009, was issued to coincide with International Migrants’ Day Friday.
“For those who are lucky, migration can mean a better life, greater freedoms, more money, and reuniting with family, the report reads.
“But for others, restrictive and xenophobic immigration policies, inadequate labor protections, and barriers to justice mechanisms translate into human rights abuses with little hope of redress, the report continues.
According to the report, the United Nations estimates that by mid-2010 there will be approximately 214 million international migrants worldwide. Egypt is a major transit hub for migrants from East and sub-Saharan Africa en route to Israel and Europe.
Migrants in Egypt are often subjected to a host of discriminatory practices. A report submitted by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) to the United Nations’ Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families in 2007 detailed racially-motivated identity checks and detentions and inadequate legal protection of domestic workers, amongst other problems.
In the HRW report, Egypt appears in its section on the treatment of migrants attempting to cross borders.
“Men, women and children may risk their lives to cross borders. The border control policies of many countries are often hostile, discriminatory, and flout international standards, HRW says.
“Governments may fail to screen migrants to identify asylum-seekers and trafficking victims, or subject them to violence or poor conditions in detention.
Egyptian border guards have shot and killed at least 17 migrants from countries such as Eritrea, Ethiopia and Sudan on the border, HRW says.
The report makes reference to an interview conducted by independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm English Edition with North Sinai governor General Mohamed Shousha during which he said that shooting migrants is “not a mistake and is “necessary.
HRW says that border police should be ordered “to use lethal force only as a proportional and necessary response to a threat to life, and conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the killings of African migrants, make the results public, and prosecute responsible border police officers and officials with oversight responsibility.
The report is also critical of Israel’s illegal policy of forcibly returning migrants and refugees to Egypt, where they face “arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials before military courts and forcible deportation without the chance to make asylum claims.
According to the report, Israeli Defense Force forcibly returned 217 migrants to Egypt between January and September 2009, and Israel forcibly deported at least 139 migrants in August 2007 and 2008. Some of these migrants were forcibly returned to Eritrea by Egypt.