Shoot to Kill

Robin Hammond

Why would the Egyptian authorities want to shoot and kill unarmed migrants trying to leave the country?~~His body is riddled with bullet holes, his mind haunted by visions of death. At night 23 year old Abdel-Wahid wakes up screaming, sometimes from the pain in his body but mostly from the dreams running through his head.~~Abdel-Wahid was the only male survivor after his family in the Sudanese region of Darfur were attacked by the Janjaweed militia. If he was to stay alive, he decided, he would have to leave. And so a long trek towards Israel began. Across Africa's largest country, Sudan, into Egypt, and across the Sinai desert to the border with Israel.~~In the dark he waited, a few metres from safety. He heard footsteps coming closer, then a flash light shone into his face blinding him. In Arabic an unseen voice said ‘Hey, you. Bastard! Today will be your last’ and with that the guard fired seven bullets into Abdel-Wahid’s body.

Amnesty International say they are aware of 29 fatal shootings of unarmed border crossers in the first ten months of 2010. There have been reports of 85 fatal shootings since 2007. This investigation found anecdotal evidence that the numbers killed may be far higher.~~Why would Egypt want to shoot and kill unarmed migrants trying to leave their country? The Egyptian government talks of security risks, ensuring the law is respected, halting a potentially chaotic situation. Is there something more?~Israel and the United States have put pressure on Egypt to stop the flow of goods and people across the porous Sinai frontier. In June 2007 President Hosni Mubarak and then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met to discuss the flood of what Israeli officials had called 'infiltrators'. The two reached an agreement that Egypt would take back migrants who cross the border and take measures to prevent future ‘infiltrations’, according to a briefing posted on the Israeli Foreign Ministry website on July 1st, 2007.~The first reported death came a few weeks later. Haja Abbas Haroun, seven months pregnant and fleeing the bloody conflict in her native Darfur, was killed on July 22nd as she attempted to cross into Israel.~~In March 2010 Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for Cairo to urgently launch an independent and credible inquiry into what could be a shoot-to-kill policy by some Egyptian security forces.~'While migrants often lose their lives accidentally when travelling in over-crowded boats, or trying to cross remote land borders, I know of no other country where so many unarmed migrants and asylum seekers appear to have been deliberately killed in this way by government forces,' Pillay said.~~Tommy (not his real name) did part of his military service with the IDF on the Israel/Egypt border in 2009. He and his colleagues were dealing with the fall-out from the shootings. ~Tommy recalls one such case when he found a teenager dying in the desert. 'One bullet had pierced him directly through the heart. That was really a distressing and difficult sight to see. I held him through his dying breaths, I held him in my hands, and eventually closed his eyes.'~Tommy readjusts his kippah and sits upright when asked what his thoughts are on the border killings. He's been waiting for the opportunity to say his piece.'No matter where one stands about any kind of immigration, refugee, or asylum policy anywhere in the world, on any border, no matter what the problems are for any country, no country can afford for that kind of blood on their hands. Whether it's people who are trying to seek a better life, or fleeing from something, unless someone has hostile intentions, which clearly was not the case here, no one can justify a death sentence simply for trying to cross between one country and another.'~A full text by Robin Hammond is available.~

 

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      Torn clothes of an immigrant on a barbed wire fence...

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      Sudanese refugees cross the Egyptian/Israeli border....

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      Armed Egyptian border guards patrol the...

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      A refugee killed by Egyptian border guards at the...

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      A barbed wire fence at the Egyptian/Israeli border....

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      Torn clothes of an immigrant on a barbed wire fence...

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      A grave of a refugee killed by Egyptian border guards...

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      Graves of refugees killed by Egyptian border guards...

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      The dual barbed wire fence at the Egyptian/Israeli...

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      Sudanese refugees cross the Egyptian/Israeli border....

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      Sudanese refugees who have crossed the...

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      An Egyptian border guard climbs a watchtower...

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      Yossi served with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) at...

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      Gabriel (not his real name) shows his scars as he...

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      Gabriel (not his real name) looks out the window from...

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      Gabriel (not his real name) shows his scars as he...

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      Abdel-Wahid (not his real name) lies on a couch next...

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      Abdel-Wahid (not his real name) is helped into his...

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      Abdel-Wahid (not his real name) is helped to stand by...

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      Abdel-Wahid (not his real name) has a wash with the...

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      Abdel-Wahid (not his real name) rides in a lift in a...

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      Abdel-Wahid (not his real name) is pushed along in...

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      Abdel-Wahid (not his real name) lies on a couch next...

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      The shoes of an immigrant caught on a barbed wire...

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      Tommy (not his real name) served with the Israeli...

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      Tommy (not his real name) served with the Israeli...

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      Isma'il is a refugee from Darfur in Sudan, he was...

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      Isma'il is a refugee from Darfur in Sudan, he was...

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      Isma'il points to scars on his body. He is a refugee...

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      Isma'il is a refugee from Darfur in Sudan, he was...

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      Charles (not his real name) holds his wife's death...

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      Charles (not his real name) looks out of the window...

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      Jacob lies on a coach smoking. He is a refugee from...

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      Jacob holds one of his children, the only one he has...

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      Ezekiel sits on stone benches outside an apartment...

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      Adam (not his real name) stands on a street in Arad....

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