The story of kidnappings
Multicultural Communities Council Gold Coast (MCCGC) work with the recently resettled Eritrean community on the Gold Coast. Several community members have reached out for support after experiencing the kidnapping of a loved one. These kidnappings have occurred across the neighbouring countries to Eritrea such as Sudan, Ethiopia, and Libya. They are reported to occur to Eritrean refugees who have known links to Australia.re
The kidnappers usually hear that they have a relative who sends them regular remittances and are awaiting to receive a visa to be reunited with family. They target these people as they believe the relatives in Australia can afford large ransoms. Over the last 6-month period the MCCGC team has worked with three different families experiencing this form of kidnapping. An 18-year-old sister of a female Eritrean community member, who disappeared from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with another female friend. The kidnappers demanded the recently resettled woman at risk to pay $US5000, with threats of torture should it not be paid. The community member had tried to include her younger sister in her original application for a humanitarian visa, which was granted when they were both in a refugee camp
in Ethiopia, however, at that time, the sister was under 18 and her parents in Eritrea did not consent. The community member came to Australia on a woman-at-risk visa with her 2 children and since arrival has been trying to bring her sister here under a family proposed refugee visa. This has been received but not processed. After the woman paid the ransom, the sister was left in Khartoum, Sudan and is experiencing gender-based violence while still waiting on a visa outcome.
Another community member, an elderly Tigrayan man, who has remaining adult children and grandchildren in Sudan, and has applied for family proposed refugee visas for them. His 20-year-old son was kidnapped from Khartoum, Sudan and held in Libya until the father was able to pay the $US7000. During the calls from the kidnappers, he reported hearing them beating his son until he was able to raise the money. The third situation in 6 months, is another Eritrean female whose husband was kidnapped in Ethiopia and is believed to be held in Libya still. The family here have applied for a split family humanitarian visa more than 4 years ago to reunite with their father and husband.
All these situations required intensive support to the families during that time of dealing with the kidnappers, both emotional wellbeing and financial emergency relief. The community members here were newly arrived, still learning English and did not have savings or resources available. The families had to borrow money and fell behind on rent and bills. All the people kidnapped were close family members who should have been together with the other family members and granted visas to Australia. In all situations, the people were on proposed humanitarian applications awaiting processing at the time of kidnapping. The special humanitarian processing centre was kept up to date on the cases during and after the kidnappings and the family are still waiting on any visa outcomes.