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Israel this week started repatriating Eritreans in a move criticized by rights groups concerned about the safety of these migrants. The Interior Ministry said all such returns are voluntary.

“The situation in Israel is very bad for refugees and asylum seekers,” said a 24-year-old Eritrean Christian who identified himself only as Daniel out of concern for his family’s safety.

Daniel, who was held in the Sinai, was left by his captors at the Israel border a year ago. In Israel, he was held at a detention camp in the Negev Desert for 2 months and then transferred to a government shelter in Petah Tikva, a city about 7 miles east of Tel Aviv.

Israel doesn’t accept them as refugees, he said in a telephone interview from the shelter.

“They call us infiltrators. We face up to three years in detention. This is the reality here in Israel,” he said.

Authorities in Europe, meanwhile, have started to investigate the flow of ransom money from the diaspora communities to the traffickers.

In the first case of its kind in Europe, two Swedish men were convicted last month of extortion after they demanded $33,000 from Ms. Estefanos to secure the release of a hostage held in the Sinai.

One of the men was sentenced to a month in prison and probation, while the other got probation.

The hostage was tortured to death by his captors.