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Ethiopian’s life matters! But they are being slaughtered and tortured. In the midst of illegal migration. With the hope of finding better jobs, a considerable pack of nationals leave Ethiopia with the help of smugglers.
Their desired destinations are European countries. It requires pure luck to reach the destination beyond the Mediterranean. Often, this dangerous journey of life takes the lives of many on the barren desserts or the seas. In the aftermath of the brutal ISIS massacre of 30 Ethiopian migrants in Libya, citizens have started to talk about seriously of the dangers of illegal migration. Those beheaded individuals were planning to migrate to Europe.
Human trafficking has become an immense problem in Ethiopia. As a result of poverty, large numbers of Ethiopians are voluntarily trafficked, through illegal ‘desert routes. They are mainly trafficked for household labor purposes. The challenge these migrants face during the journey is not the end but the beginning of the trauma. Even in the case they succeed to reach their destination and get a job, they are subjected to abuses such as long working hours, unbearable workload, restricted movement and isolation, inability to change employers, lack of leisure, denial of wages, and irregular payment of wages.
Metema-Galabat, a ‘desert rout’ of human trafficking from Ethiopia to Sudan, is a place of suffering for many Ethiopians. Physical and emotional abuse, including rape, torture, starvation, imprisonment, threats, beatings, and even death are just some of the horrors the majority of trafficked women face while passing through this rout. This is why many compare the rout to that of the North Africa’s ‘deadly tunnel’-Sinai desert.
The magnitude of illegal migration in Ethiopia is becoming significant the estimation of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA), around 1.5 million Ethiopians left the country illegally between the years 2008 and 2014. During these years, 480,480 Ethiopians went to Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Yemen, Qatar, Egypt legally. A registered 406 brokers assist with the outflow of legal migrants. However, the illegal migrants travel with the aid of organized smugglers across the borders and the deserts of Yemen and Libya.
The time between departure and arrival may vary from some days to several months or even years.
Who are the Traffickers ?
Many think that these traffickers are ordinary people or that they are doing the business because of poverty. The truth is, however, that these people are economically rich and are those who are not commonly expected to be trafficker. According to a research conducted by Bahir Dar University, most of them are known in the community positively, and do have their own legal business in big cities of the country. In addition, the study shows that most of them run the trafficking business together with border police, border guards, and other responsible government officials.
The human traffickers work in networks. The first group initiates students, youngsters, and jobless people telling them fictitious stories of lives in Arab and European countries. The smugglers preach to them going abroad is the easiest way to make thousands of dollars, to get rid of poverty. Having the innocent people convinced, the smugglers pass the migrants over to another group on the line. The second group of smugglers knows the ins and outs of countries and it is this group that takes people across countries. The smugglers receive large sums of cash from migrants. The last group of traffickers receives the migrants to take them to their final destinations. The third dealers’ group arranges shelters where the migrants can stay until they get a job.
How they travel
Very often, the illegal travels takes place under inhumane conditions: the migrants are overcrowded in trucks or boats, with minimal or no food and drinks for extended hours, and fatal accidents occur frequently. After their arrival in the destination country, their illegal status puts them at the mercy of their smugglers, who often force the migrants to work for years in the illegal labor market to pay off the debts incurred as a result of their transportation.
The price of the trip, conditions of travel and status upon arrival can vary significantly. Smuggling is mostly done by land and/or sea. Peer pressure, low economy and soft control in the illegal immigration work are the big factors that aggravate these scenarios. There are two major migration routes in Ethiopia, according to the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The first one is the Metemma boarder through which migrants travel to Sudan to reach Libya. After Libya, they cross the Mediterranean Sea with boat to reach Italy. If they are lucky, they go off to different European countries, especial Germany and France. When luck betrays them, they end up in refugee camps. Up to 4,000 dollars is required per head to reach their final destination. The smugllers share the money according to their work. The first route is mainly taken by migrants coming from Addis Ababa, Gojam, Gondar, Wello, Aresi, Welegga, and Nekimt.
The second route is via the Moyale boarder that is traveled by migrants going to South Africa via Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Botswana. Most of the migrants that choose this route are men from the southern region, which are the most densely populated areas of Ethiopia. Up to 30,000 birr is required for travel on this route.
Girma Shelme, Public Relation Head of MoLSA said that the increasing illegal migration is caused by people’s misguided perceptions of foreign countries.
“The most saddening tragedy is that the migrants pay thousands of birr to illegal brokers and most of them buy misery with their money. We have thousands of young people who are working here and have made a dramatic change in their life, who created more job opportunity for hundreds of others. These are citizens who firmly believe migration is not the solution.”
“The government is intensifying small and medium enterprises to create more jobs for the jobless but some don’t want this chance and they prefer illegal migration. They have to stop, and look at the good opportunities, and should also change their perception. They can make good money here if they work hard” Girma said.
Nevertheless, for some people like Behailu Alemu, a jobless young man from Gulelle sub-city, the partisan modes that shift benefits to a group of loyalists is one factor that intensifies the migration.
“People leave their country and choose illegal migration because of poverty. I am 35 years old but still I live with my family and I don’t have enough salary to live by my own. The government always tell sus to be entrepreneurs, but to start a business is like climbing a tall tree. There is heavy burden at the beginning stage. The procedure to get license is so long. The officials tells us we [the youth] can make money here if we become self employed. But they also provide the bottleneck to do that,’’ Behailu criticizes government’s promises.
“We see that people living abroad change their family’s life in a short time and we are eager to go abroad and do the same for our family, although we know that the routes of illegal migration are so hard and surrounded by many problems,’’ he said.
Economists also argue that many workers do not have sufficient income to cover, at least, their basic needs. This condition, in turn, aggravates illegal migration.
Euyaes Sisay, who is an economist says, “We don’t have any doubt that our economy has made some progress but people don’t get the right salary. Take someone who gets 1,000 birr per month and assume he has a wife. Dose the income cover the house rent, food, transport, electricity and water bills? Can we blame this person if he chose to illegal migrate to change his life?’’ he said.