A brief update on the shocking case of the African migrants held hostage in Egypt by traffickers who are demanding more money from them. Several reports now put the number at "up to 250", and it's good to see the UNHCR making representations on their behalf.
UNHCR officials say (here and here) that the Egyptian authorities "are giving this the utmost priority and attention" and that "around the clock efforts are underway to locate the hostages and release them".
What this means, in plain English, is that the Egyptians are saying they don't, at present, know exactly where the hostages are.
But how can a regime which is normally so adept at monitoring its rebellious citizens have so little information about 250 people who are reportedly locked up in shipping containers in Sinai? The answer, perhaps, is that they are only Africans and pose no threat to the regime.
RED SEA SHARKS
Talking of sharks in Sinai, I was planning to ignore the Jaws IVstory, but now that the governor of Southern Sinai has claimed that the underwater killers are part of an Israeli plot, I think it's worth pointing out that this is just the sort of remark that's guaranteed to get the Egyptian media excited and send reporters scurrying off to Sharm el Sheikh and, with any luck, forgetting all about the rigged election.
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 8 Dec 2010.