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Bildt urged to help stop torture of Eritreans

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Bildt urged to help stop torture of Eritreans
14:07 CEST+02:00
Pressure is mounting on Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt to take action against the torture of Eritreans in Egypt and the blackmailing of their relatives in Sweden and other European countries.

"It is important to act swiftly and forcefully," Olle Schmidt, member of the European Parliament of the Swedish Liberal Party (Folkpartiet), told the TT news agency.

"The Swedish government should raise the issue and give it the attention it deserves. After all, this has been going on since around 2009 and we know that people are being kidnapped, mutilated, killed, blackmailed."

"Sweden, the EU and the UN have a responsibility to act. Furthermore, this is about our own citizens," he added.

Thousands of Eritreans are thought to have been tortured and killed in Bedouin camps in the Sinai peninsula.

Several Swedish Eritreans have been blackmailed by kidnappers for ransoms of tens of thousands of dollars.

Many told TT that they fear getting sudden phone calls from Sinai about a detained relative. They urged the Swedish government and the European Union to do more to stop the kidnappings.

Addressing the EU parliament, Schmidt asked the EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton what she plans to do about the situation.

Ashton replied that the EU and the UN refugee agency UNHCR is trying to influence Egypt to take action, but she admitted that there have been just small advances.

In fact, the kidnappings are increasing according to a new report from Amnesty International, which believes Sweden and Europe can do more to pressure Egypt into cracking down on the "torture camps".

Carina Hägg, a Social Democrat of the parliament's foreign affairs committee, said she has tried but failed to find out what exactly the government is doing to help.

Both Hägg and Schmidt are hoping the government will prioritize this issue now that the connections with Sweden and the EU have become clear following media reports about the Swedish-Eritrean blackmail victims.

"Carl Bildt and the government should urge the EU to create a special envoy who will work only on these issues," said Hägg.

TT tried to reach Bildt for a comment.

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