“The grass isn’t always greener on the other side”


News: A woman in Dubai last week was reportedly accused of torturing her two maids. One of these was Ethiopian [her name was abbreviated as K.J]. She died of consistent torture and hunger. The other was a Filipino who lived to tell the tale of what happened to her Ethiopian colleague.
K.J developed pneumonia but was left without medication. She was forced to drink pesticide, quickening her death. According to police reports, she was 37 years old when she died.
In spite of this, a 23-year-old girl, who came to Addis Ababa three months ago, was at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA) on Tuesday June 18, 2013.
She was there to get her paperwork to allow her to travel to the Middle East, to work as a maid. She told Capital that she had been planning to go to Saudi Arabia illegally with her friends, who already left three days before, due to the slow pace of the application process.
“My agency called me just two days before I was about to move and told me that they have found me a job as a maid and I could come and finalize the process immediately. It was unbelievable. At first I didn’t believe it was true – until I came to start the process myself,” she said.
She said she would come back in four years with money that will enable her to start her own business or pursue her education, which stopped at 12th grade three years ago.
She said she has to pay 9,700 birr to the agency informally as it is illegal for these agencies to receive money for sending people overseas.
“I heard many people have spent more than 30,000 birr to go out illegally. I still don’t mind paying this as what I want right now is to go – not an argument about whether I should or shouldn’t pay,” she said.
She said her friends would pay 5,000 birr for brokers.
Her friends went out  less than two weeks after a public forum was organized on June 8, at the Millennium Hall to prevent human trafficking. 
Last week, 43 Ethiopian immigrants were caught allegedly trying to enter Kenya illegally. They were arrested at Ngaremara, Isiolo County.
Experts suggest human trafficking in Ethiopia is increasing. The country has the joint highest number of cases with Eritrea, a country where almost all freedoms are compromised and citizens are isolated from the outside world, thanks to the undemocratic rule of Esayas Afewerki.
Ethiopian women and girls are choosing to put themselves in domestic servitude and sexual exploitation, while its men and boys are also subjected to forced labour in different parts of the world, starting from neighboring countries Djibouti and Sudan to transit areas including Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Uganda and others.
Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians have legitimately left for other countries seeking work in recent years. Still the rate of illegal migration is two or three times higher, according to experts.
Dangers exist while travelling, but also when Ethiopian migrants reach their destinations. Migrants, mainly women, face physical and sexual assault, sleep deprivation, confinement, incarceration, denial of payment and even murder.
The problem is worst in the Middle East, where women are forced into the sex trade in places like the UAE, Lebanon and other countries.
With all kinds of mistreatment, including beating, torture, rape, killings and human organ piracy, many Ethiopians are choosing to run away from these countries, travelling through some of the world’s deadliest places, such as Somalia and the Sinai desert.
Besides banning citizens from travelling to some Middle East countries, the government is trying to heighten awareness.
It claims to have done what it can to protect citizens from human trafficking and to prevent the practice by bringing prosecutions.
In fact it is making a significant progress.
But many agree that its efforts don’t even comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. Officials admit that the movement of Ethiopian people in this way is simply uncontrollable.
Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that people are not giving due attention to the opportunities in the country before deciding to expose themselves to exploitations and tough situations.
“The country has been registering a remarkable consecutive economic growth over the last decade. But still people are choosing or facing to be trafficked,” he said at the first high level public consultative forum.
“The country is doing well and many citizens are striving to win over poverty,” he said.
Hailemariam claims that brokers and smugglers are behind the growth of the problem.
Ashenafi Musie was one of the witnesses and speakers at the public forum held to prevent human trafficking at the Millennium Hall earlier this month.
Several years back, he thought the end on the other side was greener and left his homeland. He went through Somalia and Yemen to Saudi Arabia. As he made his way to his destination with brokers illegally, he suffered a lot, starting from Bossaso, Somalia.
He told me he went through a range of abuses, which he didn’t want to talk about specifically, as he made his way to Saudi Arabia.
After a long ordeal Ashenafi returned to Ethiopia and started his own business, with just 5,000 birr in his pocket.
He owns Ashu Furniture Enterprise, a successful business famous for producing versatile items of furniture that can be used as a bed, table or many other things.
The company employs 20 people and has capital of 1.5 million birr.
Ashenafi, who tearfully said that youth should look back to their own country, told me he would do miracles with his money and that his company has an asset, as he has achieved this much with only 5,000 birr all by himself.
He said he regrets the time he passed by making unfruitful travel. He said people should participate in the developmental activities the country currently is undertaking instead of being victims for human trafficking and traffickers.
He believes awareness creation is key to prevent the dangers of human trafficking, something that Ashenafi said he believes is still lacking.
A committee was set up in 2009 to tackle human trafficking. Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education, is the current chair of the National Council against Human Trafficking.
Hailemariam said at the conference that he is keen to take legal and administrative measures against human traffickers and brokers, who are luring people into leaving the country.
Other speakers at the public forum including DPM Demeke and Shiferaw Shigute, President of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s regional state who represented all regional presidents on the forum, underlined the need to strengthen the government’s effort in prevention of human trafficking, protection of citizens from human trafficking and its perils and prosecution of human traffickers and brokers.
The forum had higher government officials and religious leaders in attendance, who also stressed the need to address the issue properly and promised to do their best to stop human trafficking.
The committee chair stressed at the forum  – attended by more than 4,000 people – that human trafficking should be tackled, or else, it would result in social and economic chaos.