From Sawa to the Sinai Desert: The Eritrean Tragedy of Human Trafficking

36 Pages Posted: 9 May 2012

See all articles by Daniel Rezene Mekonnen

Daniel Rezene Mekonnen

Eritrean Law Society

Meron Estefanos

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: November 30, 2011


Eritrea is a twenty-year old nation with a long history of war, political violence, instability, excessive levels of poverty and economic deprivation. At least since 1960s Eritrea has been one of the leading refugee producing countries in the world. After its independence in 1991 Eritrea has seen a major decline in the mass exodus of its population. The trend has completely changed in the aftermath of the 1998–2000 Eritrea-Ethiopia border conflict. The situation further deteriorated after the political crisis of September 2001, the worst political crisis in the post-independence history. We take these as major indicators of forced migration. And our paper analyses earlier and latest trends of human trafficking in Eritrea, dating back to mid-1990s up to November 2011. Earlier trends of human trafficking were relatively of a lower magnitude. In the last two years the trend of human trafficking has escalated exponentially exposing thousands of Eritrean victims to horrendous acts of abuses, such as illegal organ harvesting, by Bedouin human traffickers based in the Sinai Desert of Northeast Egypt. By providing the relevant background information on the Eritrean tragedy of human trafficking, the paper discusses key recommendations aimed at alleviating the suffering of thousands of Eritrean victims. Part of the analysis in our paper is based on a selected sample of more than 100 interviews conducted with victims of human trafficking, relatives of victims and traffickers between February and November 2011. Collected via open-ended narrative interviews, some of our data was gathered as late as in November 2011 from victims who were still held hostage in the Sinai Desert.

Keywords: human rights, forced migration, human trafficking, militarisation, Eritrea, Egypt

Suggested Citation

Mekonnen, Daniel Rezene and Estefanos, Meron, From Sawa to the Sinai Desert: The Eritrean Tragedy of Human Trafficking (November 30, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Daniel Rezene Mekonnen (Contact Author)

Eritrean Law Society ( email )

3213 Duke Street
No. 643
Alexandria, VA VA 22314
United States

Meron Estefanos

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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