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Page last updated at 11:25 GMT, Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Egypt 'must stop' border shooting

Satellite image of Sinai peninsula
Thousands of Africans have crossed the unmarked desert border into Israel

An international human rights lobby group has called on Egypt to stop shooting African migrants as they cross the country's border into Israel.

Egyptian border guards have shot dead at least 32 African refugees and migrants since June 2007, Human Rights Watch says in a new 90-page report.

Some 13,000 people, mainly Sudanese and Eritreans, have crossed since 2006.

Israel has also violated refugees' rights, HRW says, including forcibly returning dozens of them to Egypt.

"They are not safe in Egypt. Assurances are worthless," said HRW's Joe Stork in remarks to AFP news agency.

Issue of policy

Egypt has said its tactics on the border are part of its strategy to counter terrorism and smuggling, but the report says there is no suggestion the migrants who had been shot posed any threat to border guards.

"There is no evidence, and Egyptian officials have not claimed, that in any of the known cases where Egyptian border guards killed or wounded migrants and refugees, they fired in self-defence," the report said.

"This is an issue of policy, it's an issue of command control," Mr Stork told AFP.

"The first time it happens, OK it may be a tragic mistake. When it happens over and over again, it reflects policy."

The report says Israel asked Egypt to do more to prevent illegal migration in early 2008 when scores of people were crossing the largely unmarked desert border every night.

Many migrants say they are leaving Egypt because of racism against black Africans there and "frequent" violent treatment including from the authorities, the report says.

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