The European Parliament, – having regard to the UNHCR Statement of 7 December 2010 on Eritrean hostages in Sinai, in Egypt, – having regard to the EU-Egypt Association Agreement(1) signed in Luxembourg on 25 June 2001 and in force since 1 June 2004, and in particular the Preamble and Article 2 thereof, – having regard to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the 1967 protocol thereto, – having regard to the UN Protocol to prevent, suppress and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime of 2000, – having regard to the OAU Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa, – having regard to the Barcelona Declaration of November 1995, which formed the basis of what became the Union for the Mediterranean, – having regard to the declaration of 21 September 2010 by Catherine Ashton, Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on political prisoners in Eritrea, – having regard to Rule 122(5) of its Rules of Procedure, A. whereas on Tuesday 7 December, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it was concerned about 250 Eritrean migrants believed to be held hostage in the Sinai desert, B. whereas dozens of migrant women reported back to international organisations that traffickers had repeatedly raped them and that both men and women had been subject to inhumane treatment while awaiting ransom or even after payments had been made, C. whereas it is claimed that the traffickers are demanding payments of up to USD 8 000 per person for their release, D. whereas according to the UNHCR, about 85% of the migrants entering the Sinai desert in recent months have been Eritrean nationals fleeing a repressive state and, in conformity with the UNHCR’s eligibility guidelines, should be considered as refugees, E. whereas every year thousands of people attempt to cross the border from Egypt into Israel, often in the hands of traffickers who have little regard for safety, F. whereas the UNCHR has been advocating with the Egyptian authorities for access to people who are in state custody in the course of making this journey, with a view to being able to determine those among them who are refugees and in need of international protection, G. whereas a sizable network smuggling sub-Saharan migrants through Egypt to Israel has been operating in Sinai since 2007, H. whereas Egypt’s border area with Israel in Sinai is a restricted military zone to which the country prohibits unauthorised entry; whereas, according to Human Rights Watch, Egyptian security forces have killed at least 85 unarmed migrants trying to cross the border illegally between Egypt and Israel since 2007, I. whereas, according to Israeli government figures, more than 1 000 migrants enter the country illegally every month; whereas Israel recently began to build a barrier fence and a surveillance system along its border with Egypt with the aim of stopping the influx of illegal migrants, as well as a detention centre for illegal migrants in the Negev, J. whereas the Egyptian authorities regularly refer to organised criminal activity in Sinai involving the smuggling and trafficking of people, drugs, and weapons when justifying its prosecution before military tribunals of migrants charged with unlawful presence in Sinai, K. whereas policies and measures adopted by some European countries towards migrants have contributed to an increased influx of migrants to Egypt and other countries in the region, L. whereas in August 2010 seven people were killed in clashes with smugglers near the border with Israel after African migrants held by traffickers seized the weapons of their captors in a bid to escape, 1. Urges the Egyptian authorities to take all necessary measures to secure the release of Eritreans held hostage; welcomes the efforts made by the Egyptian authorities to investigate information included in UNHCR reports as well as persons with connections to the traffickers; 2. Welcomes the opening of the diplomatic procedures with the Egyptian authorities by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to initiate a search for the band of traffickers and hostages; 3. Encourages Egypt, Israel and the international community to continue fighting against human smuggling and trafficking in Sinai; 4. Stresses the initiatives taken by Egypt, including the setting up in 2007 of the National Coordinating Committee for Combating and Preventing Trafficking in Persons and the recent adoption of an anti-trafficking law, in combating human smuggling and trafficking in Sinai; 5. Stresses that Egypt, as well as all countries, has a duty urgently to bring its treatment of refugees into line with international norms so that every refugee is afforded full protection and assistance; 6. Is aware that the Sinai desert border has become a route for African migrants, including thousands of Eritreans each year who flee the country, with many heading for Israel; 7. Urges Egyptian authorities and security forces, while recognising that Egypt has the right to regulate entry and exit across its borders, to avoid the use of lethal force against illegal migrants crossing the borders of the country; to fully respect international human rights law provisions and standards regarding their treatment; to protect their dignity and their physical and psychological integrity; to respect their right to due process and fair trial; and to guarantee that detained migrants have the ability to contact the UNHCR and allow the UNHCR access to all asylum seekers and refugees in state custody; 8. Calls on the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy to place this topic on the agenda of political dialogue with Egypt as a high priority and to urge Egypt’s Government to combat human trafficking and to uphold its obligations under international refugee conventions; 9. Invites Member States to tackle this humanitarian emergency through the voluntary resettlement in the EU of all the asylum seekers involved in this crisis; asks the European Commission to coordinate this operation and use available funding through the European Refugees Fund; 10. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to establish a true partnership with the UNHCR by offering both political and financial support to assist the work of the UNHCR in Cairo; 11. Recognises the mandate of the UNHCR and the importance of its efforts to protect and promote durable solutions for refugees and other uprooted people; 12. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the President of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Government and Parliament of Egypt, the Government and Parliament of Israel, the government of Eritrea, the Vice-President of the Commission/High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the African Union institutions including the Pan-African Parliament and the governments of the Member States.