Nowadays, news bulletins of Africa detailing illegal human trafficking within the continent and across the Arabian Peninsula,
places Ethiopians on the front row of those mentioned in regards to this tragic human wave; whether it is about migrants crossing the Indian Ocean by way of eastern Ethiopia through the semi-autonomous Somali region of Puntland to reach Yemen or the oil rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, or those trying to reach South Africa by way of eastern and southern African nations and those trying to reach southern Europe by way of Northern Africa crossing the deadly waters of the Mediterranean sea.
To counter this growing and alarming trend in human trafficking, a discussion was held at the Prime Minister’s office on January 12 with representatives from the various sectors of the Ethiopian society attending the event.
One example that was highlighted at the event was of countries who’ve successfully managed to turn the tide of illegal immigration by their people seeking better job opportunities. Among those mentioned were the world’s second most populous nation, India and the southeast Asian nation of Indonesia, that have been able to create favorable conditions for their citizens to develop their entrepreneurial skills and enough job opportunities to stem the flood.
Mekuria Haile, Minister of Urban Development and Construction (MoUDC), said one reason for the ever growing number of Ethiopians searching to achieve their life-time goals beyond their native border is the mismatch between the job opportunities and the aspirations of citizens.
“Entrepreneurial skills should be appreciated and encouraged,” stated Mekuria, adding that many citizens leave Ethiopia borrowing 100,000 to 500,000 birr, which, if combined with a bank loan, could’ve been better used to form Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) locally.
Mulu Solomon, President of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association (ECCSA), said that only about a tenth of the people who illegally migrate find the opportunities they are looking for, with the rest being subjected to bitter disappointment, health problems and hassles.
She further said Ethiopians have to be inventive and strive for a change of attitude; a change that will reverse the trend.
Some participants indicated that the ease through which tourist visas for Arab countries are acquired, the lack of coordination between the police and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoULSA) in particular, the deficiency of an effective communication strategy in general, as well as a lack of a detailed study on the push-and-pull factors of immigration contribute to these illegal migrations, and therefore exposure to human trafficking.
However, a participant from the Ethiopian Youth Federation said the influence of family members has to be taken into account as to why people decide to migrate to foreign countries, where parents would rather spend hard-earned savings to send their children abroad rather than help their children develop skills to make them employable at home.
Reta Alemu, Director of International Legal Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), elaborated on the fact that the recently established task force, formed to prevent illicit human migration, would take positive ideas from this meeting and will include them in a proposal for introduction into future legislation.
Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, along with Reta Alemu, the co-chair of the meeting, indicated that the new task force will reach into the lowest level of the society to address this tragic issue, and will also be directly assisting the drafters of a future legislation dealing with the issue of human trafficking.