June 19, 2008 / 9:09 AM / in 10 years

Egypt kills African migrant at Israel border

By Yusri Mohamed

ISMAILIA, Egypt, June 19 (Reuters) - Egyptian police shot dead an African man on Thursday as he tried to slip across the desert border into Israel, bringing to 14 the number of migrants killed at the border this year, security sources said.

The death of the unidentified migrant came as Egypt continues large-scale deportations of Eritrean asylum seekers despite objections by the U.N. refugee agency, which fears for their safety.

"Egyptian police were forced to open fire on a group of African illegal migrants as they attempted to cross barbed wire separating Egypt and Israel, leading one to be killed," an Egyptian security source said.

Security sources said police arrested a second migrant from Ivory Coast during the same attempt to cross into Israel, at a border point near the Kerem Shalom crossing that links Egypt, Israel and the Gaza Strip.

The dead migrant was thought to be in his 30s, but could not be further identified. The majority of the 14 migrants killed at the border this year have been from either Eritrea or Ivory Coast, along with three Sudanese and a Nigerian.

Scores more mainly African migrants have been arrested near the border this year. Amnesty International says thousands of migrants try to cross into the Jewish state from Egypt each year, with numbers rising since 2007.

The migrants are seeking work or asylum away from conflict at home and harsh living conditions in Egypt, where activists say African migrants face economic marginalisation and racism.

Egyptian security sources said Egypt had deported hundreds of Eritrean asylum seekers since June 11 and planned to forcibly return hundreds more, accusing them of planning to smuggle themselves to Israel.

The deportations come as Cairo is under pressure to staunch the flow of African migrants into the Jewish state over the sensitive Sinai border, Amnesty says.

Egypt deported up to 200 migrants on Wednesday, security sources said, adding to about 690 other Eritreans who Amnesty says were deported this month. Hundreds more Eritreans are believed to remain in Egyptian jails. (Reporting by Yusri Mohamed; Writing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Charles Dick)

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