In search of a better life thousands of Ethiopians go to Europe, South Africa and Arab countries through illegal means. However this is difficult, dangerous and often fatal. If they are not killed many are raped and tortured. ILO is one of the organizations working to cut the flow of illegal migration. Aida Awel is currently working as a Chief Technical Adviser on Labour migration for the ILO Country Office for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan. She argues that more awareness and job creation in the local market should be done to reduce illegal migration.
Aida Awel has worked closely with the AU, the UNECA and the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in promoting the Decent Work Agenda. Since 2010, she has supported Technical Development programs and projects in Ethiopia and Somalia. She was also involved in the development of the Employment for Peace strategy paper for the Horn of Africa. She supported the development of the first and second generations of the Decent Work Country Program and UNDAF for Ethiopia. She is currently a PHD Candidate with Walden University and holds an MBA in International Business from the University of Greenwich and LLB in law from the London Guildhall University.
Capital’s Tesfaye Getnet spoke to Aida to learn about the causes for and solutions to illegal migration. Excerpts:
Capital: What are the major achievements of ILO?
Aida Awel: The ILO was established in 1919 and is the only tripartite UN agency bringing together government, employers and workers’ representatives of 187 Member States to set labour standards, develop policies and devise programmes promoting decent work for all women and men. The ILO aims to promote the Decent Work agenda, in particular decent employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue, to promote social justice and internationally recognized human and labour rights. The ILO Decent Work Agenda and its four pillars is an integral element of the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Migration has been the issue of the ILO since its establishment in 1919. The ILO is promoting the rights of migrant workers by setting International Labour Standards, including the ILO migrant workers’ rights convention as well as through its Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration, and fair migration agenda.
The ILO Country Office for Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan implements its programmes and projects in support of the Decent Work Country Programme (DWCP), which is developed by its tripartite constituents based on their priorities. Currently, ILO-CO Addis Ababa is managing four projects in the area of labour migration.
As an office we have a lot of achievements, but to state a few in the past 5 years or so in the area of labour migration:
The ILO has supported the revision of the Ethiopian Overseas Employment Proclamation 923/2016. With an aim to improve the working conditions of Ethiopian migrant workers in destination countries, ILO has supported the signing of a Bilateral Trade Union Agreement between the Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions (CETU) and the Fédération Nationale Des Syndicats des Ouvriers et Employés au Liban (FENSOL) to further strengthen the relationship between the two trade union organizations on the protection of Ethiopian migrants. Besides, the ILO strengthened the capacity of the National Anti-Trafficking Task Force and provided support to Public Employment Agencies (PEA) in the development and validation of the PEA internal code of conduct aligned with the Overseas Employment Proclamation 923/2016.
The other area we work is capacity building of key government institutions, mainly the Ministry and its Bureaus of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA and BoLSAs), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) and its Foreign Missions, and ILO’s social partners (CETU and the Ethiopian Employers Federation (EEF))were strengthened through the provision of specialized trainings, experience sharing programs as well as national, international, inter-regional dialogues and knowledge sharing forums on various thematic areas related to labour migration.
To enhance better administration of records of Ethiopian migrant workers leaving and returning to the country, the ILO supported the development of a web-based Ethiopian Migrants Data Management System, which provides specific, full and up-to-date data on migrant workers.
ILO has supported MOLSA in the development of pre-departure and pre-employment training manual and reintegration guideline to equip migrants with the necessary knowledge when seeking employment overseas and retuning back home.
ILO has been working to ensure smooth reintegration of returnees into the labour market through the provision of psychosocial support, entrepreneurship training, vocational skills training, business development services and the improvement of returnees’ access to finance in collaboration with implementing partners like AGAR, WISE, ESHURURU and governmental institutions such as Technical and Vocational Education and Training Bureau (TVET) and BoLSA. To date we have supported over 15,000 returnees.
To support evidence-based policy making and labour migration programme development and implementation, the ILO conducted around ten researches in countries of origin and destinations for Ethiopian Migrants. Out of the ten, four studies focus on irregular migration, smuggling and trafficking and migrant workers situation in destination countries with the objective to bridge knowledge and information gaps and build evidence for practitioner and policy makers. These studies reveal the hidden and unspoken realities that Ethiopian migrants face in the recruitment, journey and destinations. They describe the mechanisms and cost of recruitment, means of deception and coercion, and more generally the working conditions of migrants in the various countries of destination. Furthermore, they present the magnitude and prevalence of human trafficking and its root causes.
ILO designed and implemented different awareness raising and sensitization programs to provide basic and practical information for potential migrants, migrants and returnees. To this end, the ILO has developed various Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, audio and video infotainments, and structured interactive or face-to-face programs. To mention a few, the ILO developed and disseminated various information materials such as Rights and Obligations leaflets, FAQs and information guides in English, Amharic, Tigrigna and Afaan Oromo languages on basic and practical issues of labour migration.
ILO supported and facilitated high profile public information campaigns by using broadcastmedia. It supporteda television drama series in Amharic, Tigrigna and Afan Oromo and featured film entitled “Enkopa” on irregular migration.
Capital: Besides enforcing the law what else can be done to discourage migration?
Aida Awel: The Ethiopian economy as well as its population has shown high growth. However, the economic growth has not been job rich, particularly for the youth. Furthermore, the high unemployment rate coupled with poverty, family and peer pressure, and low public awareness on the positive and negative aspects of migration has served as a driver. Also recurrent drought and environmental shocks, and inducements by smugglers and traffickers have pushed people to migrate to the capital province or abroad in search of better opportunities and to support their family. At the same time, advancement of information and communication technology, social networks, better living standards and demand for labour in major destination countries are some of the major pulling factors.
According to Ethiopia’s Proclamation No. 909/15 on Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants, anyone involved in irregular migration directly or indirectly is punished by law. However, the legal framework alone will not deter irregular migration. Combating irregular migration needs to go beyond legal frameworks and enforcement. The ILO in its fair migration agenda suggests comprehensive response mechanism for better migration management in general and reduces irregular migration in particular.
The creation of more decent work opportunities and addressing root causes of migration in Ethiopia is key in making migration an option rather than a necessity. Similarly, addressing youth unemployment and underemployment is crucial for youth to see migration as an option.
Ethiopia has signed bilateral agreement with four Middle East countries and is negotiating with two additional countries to promote well-regulated and fairmigration. The government needs to enhance such efforts to allow migrant access to fair migration mechanisms.
Instituting fair recruitment processes is vital to reduce illegal recruitment of migrants by smugglers and brokers, promoting and instituting fair recruitment process will encourage migrants to migrate regularly than irregularly.
Capital: What should the youth know about the negative impact of irregular migration?
Aida Awel: Abundant numbers of information campaigns through different channels and mediums have been disseminating information on the dangers or negative consequences of irregular migration.
While information campaigns are useful in enhancing knowledge and understanding of potential migrants, significant numbers of youth continue to the leave the country though irregular channels. Hence, one has to question the effectiveness of information campaigns and messages delivered. Having this in mind, the ILO assessed the impact of awareness raising campaigns at the country level. Findings from the study indicate the assumption that people choose irregular migration due to lack of information on the dangers associated with it. The study in fact indicates most aspiring migrants are fully aware of the dangers and hardship irregular migration entails, but they choose to migrate anyway. The information campaigns do not provide alternative livelihood possibilities hence making it difficult to draw the line between deterrence and awareness raising. Alternative knowledge about migration and stories of hope and success do the rounds in migrant support networks,given that such informationis disseminated by trusted family and community members as opposed to information campaigns discouraging irregular migration. Combatting root causes of migration can also be approached through social change built on norms and values. Information campaigns focus on fear appeal messages, showing drowning into seas, overcrowded trucks, miserable migrants or pictures of detention camps assumed to scare people enough to refrain from irregular migration. However, evidence shows that the influence of fear appeal messages on behavioural changes is quite modest.To enhance the effectiveness of awareness campaigns and bring change towards attitude and practice in combating irregular migration, awareness raising interventions have to consider points I raised earlier.
Capital: How can private investors help tackle illegal migration?
Aida Awel: It is important for the private sector to take a stronger stand to ensure ethical and fair practices, and do more to contribute its unique knowledge and expertise to help combat human trafficking and smuggling as well as support the effective economic reintegration of returnees and awareness raising even just within their workforce. Private sector can create decent job opportunities which in turn contribute to poverty alleviation, a major push factor of regular and irregular migration. ILO partners with private sectors to build the skills of youth and returnees and to provide them with decent jobs.
ILO collaborated with Eshururu Training Centre to train 400 migrant returnees as professional childcare service providers given the demand for the profession by middle class families living in Debre Birhan and Addis Ababa. Job placement is part of the support package where the childcare givers can be employed in households as well as become self-employed day-care service providers within institutions, colleges and factories. Also, recognizing that most women migrant workers have acquired skills in housekeeping, food preparation and domestic work while abroad, we have collaborated with the Ethiopian Women Entrepreneurs Association (EWEA) to provide comprehensive economic empowerment support to 3,000 returnees.