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African migrants tortured in Egypt desert

Oded Balilty / AP

Sudanese Mutasim Qamrawi, 22, shows his scars from the four months he was held in captivity by smugglers in Egypt's Sinai desert at a shelter in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Feb. 16.

Oded Balilty / AP

Sudanese Mutasim Qamrawi is among the growing number of African migrants who say they were captured, held hostage and tortured by Egyptian smugglers hired to sneak them into Israel.

Mutasim Qamrawi, a 22-year-old from Sudan, is among a growing number of African migrants reporting they were tortured in Egypt's Sinai desert by smugglers despite promises to sneak them into Israel, where they hoped to find freedom and a decent job. The smugglers then extorted the migrants' families for more money.

Human rights advocates say the situation is worsening, because smugglers are using harsher torture methods and demanding more money — as much as $40,000.

Some 50,000 Africans have entered Israel in recent years, fleeing conflict and poverty in search of safety and opportunity in the relatively prosperous Jewish state. They need the smugglers' help to navigate the rugged Sinai desert and reach Israel's border.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this blog post

Oded Balilty / AP

African refugees keep themselves warm at a shelter in Tel Aviv on Feb. 16. Some 50,000 Africans have entered Israel in recent years, fleeing conflict and poverty.

Oded Balilty / AP

African refugees share breakfast at a shelter in Tel Aviv on Feb. 16.

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