FEATURE-African migrants flood Israel after perilous treks

Fri Apr 20, 2012 12:01pm GMT

* Some 60,000 African migrants have reached Israel

* Netanyahu has vowed to "stop the flood"

By Allyn Fisher-Ilan

JERUSALEM, April 20 (Reuters) - Hrity spent three months chained to half a dozen people on a basement floor, beaten with sticks and chains that gave off electric shocks, on a ration of just a spoonful of rice a day.

Now in Israel, the 26-year-old migrant from Eritrea said she was freed only after a $30,000 ransom was delivered in cash to Israeli accomplices of her Bedouin Arab captors.

"I can't believe I survived it all. I still feel very weak and dizzy just standing sometimes," she said, telling the story of her captivity and journey across Egypt's Sinai desert, translated by her cousin Teklezghi, also a migrant in Israel, who borrowed from her parents and friends to pay for her freedom.

Some 60,000 African migrants fleeing authoritarian rule in Eritrea and fighting in neighbouring Sudan and what is now South Sudan have crossed illegally into Israel across the relatively porous desert border with Egypt.

Half of them arrived in the past two years - more than 3,500 since January alone - and growing numbers of homeless migrants are camped out in Israeli city parks. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed "to stop this flood we are all witnessing".

Hrity is settled for the moment with Teklezghi in rented quarters in Jerusalem's walled Old City, but her flight for safety may not be over.   Continued...

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