Friday, February 17, 2012

Scars tell terrible story in Tel Aviv -


Every day on World Now, we highlight a photo from somewhere in the world. Today's shot comes from a shelter in Tel Aviv, where a young man shows his scars and tells a horrific story.

Mutasim Qamrawi, a 22-year-old from Sudan, was held four months by smugglers in the Sinai Desert in Egypt, the Associated Press reports. He says the smugglers poured hot melted plastic on his back, whipped him with wires and beat his naked body with sticks:

Qamrawi said smugglers kept him and some 60 other men in a hut, shackled by their legs. Each day, about a dozen guards burst into the room, making them lie down naked, one at a time. Then the torture began. Qamrawi said he saw 16 men die under torture, screaming for help, because they took too long to gather the ransom money.

Human rights advocates say a growing number of African migrants are held hostage and tortured by smugglers hired to sneak them into Israel, a tactic used to extort more money from their families.

The Israeli government estimates that 50,000 Africans, most of them from Sudan and Eritrea, have entered illegally. Migration has become a hot-button issue, Batsheva Sobelman recently reported for The Times:

The country maintains that the influx of Africans, already in the tens of thousands, drains resources and poses social, demographic and financial problems.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently decided to add $165 million (on top of a similar amount already spent) to the project for fencing Israel's border with Egypt and erecting holding facilities for the asylum seekers whom Israel cannot return.

On the other side, some Israelis argue that the country should help oppressed immigrants, invoking the memory of the Holocaust that killed millions of Jews across Europe.

If you see a photo that we should spotlight, please tweet it to @latimesworld with the hashtag #see.


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Photo: Mutasim Qamrawi, 22, shows his scars at a Tel Aviv shelter Thursday after four months of captivity in the Sinai desert. Credit: Oded Balilty / Associated Press