Agence France Presse
UN urges Egypt to stop shooting at migrants
March 2, 2010
(AFP) GENEVA — The UN human rights chief on Tuesday urged Egyptian forces to stop shooting at African migrants trying to enter Israel illegally through Egypt, after 60 were killed in the past two and a half years.
"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," Navi Pillay said.
"It is a deplorable state of affairs, and the sheer number of victims suggests that at least some Egyptian security officials have been operating a shoot-to-kill policy... Sixty killings can hardly be an accident."
Most of the migrants hail from sub-Saharan Africa's Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia, and have been heading for Israel.
The latest victim was killed at the weekend, bringing the number of fatal shootings to nine in the first two months of 2010 alone.
"The Egyptian government should issue an immediate order to its security forces to ensure that firearms are used in strict compliance with international standards," said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in a statement.
She also urged an "independent and credible inquiry into the killings."
"There needs to be clarity about what has occurred, what policies have been applied to migrants trying to cross this border, and what specific orders have been given to security forces patrolling the area."
The Sinai desert border between Egypt and Israel has become a major trafficking route for migrants from Africa and east European women headed to work voluntarily or involuntarily in the sex trade.
Egypt has stepped up border controls in recent years but has drawn criticism from human rights watchdogs for its readiness to use force to prevent illegal crossings.