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Human Rights Watch faults Egypt's 'shoot-to-stop' policy

In a report released Wednesday, the group says 33 refugees, migrants, and asylum-seekers have been killed since 2007 while trying to cross into Israel.

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Sadiq Sahour came to Egypt from Darfur in 2004 after government militias burned down his village. He wanted to find a better life for his family, but in Cairo he found no work and little assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). So in July 2007, he and his wife, Hajja Abbas Haroun, made an increasingly popular – and dangerous – decision for refugees and migrants. They resolved to smuggle themselves into Israel.

With their infant daughter in tow and a second child due any day, they traveled to the Sinai town of Al-Arish and paid Egyptian smugglers $250 per person to ferry them to the border area. As they drew near, says Mr. Sahour, Egyptian border police approached the group of 12 adults and several children and opened fire.

Ms. Haroun and her unborn child were killed instantly. Many of the others were arrested, tried, and sentenced to heavy fines and a year in prison.

"The police came and shot us from close up," Sahour says. "They could see that there were women and children."

In a report released Wednesday, US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) says a disturbing new Egyptian policy has arisen seemingly in response to Israeli pressure on Cairo to control the flow of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers across the border. They call it a policy of "shoot-to-stop."


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