Page last updated at 17:49 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

Israel police break illegal immigrant exploitation ring

Sudanese family just crossed into Israel - August 2007
Israel has become a major destination on the route from Africa to Europe

Israeli Police have arrested two Eritrean men accused of abducting and exploiting African illegal immigrants.

The men held Africans trying to enter Israel from the Sinai desert in tents until their families paid money to let them cross the Egyptian border.

The illegal immigrants were subjected to "awful abuse and torture", according to a statement from police.

They said the suspects forced migrants to call their families and friends and send ransom money.

The men were allegedly working with an Egyptian gang on the other side of the border.

Most of the victims were Eritrean, the police said.

Investigators seized $150,000 (£92,400) in cash from the suspect's apartment in Jerusalem.

The men, aged 34 and 41, were charged with extortion, conspiracy to commit crime and aiding and abetting infiltrators, and face 20 years in jail if convicted.

Some 300,000 illegal immigrants live in Israel, according to the interior ministry.

The country has become a staging post on the route for Illegal immigrants from Africa to Europe.

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