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Curbing Human Trafficking: Exigent Task of Ethiopia

by Fekadu Wubete(Walta)

Fatima Shikur is a young woman in her mid twenties. She was born in Bedele town around Jimma. She said she was living with her husband and two children. Unlike today, she and her husband were living together with their two children and earning their living from coffee farming.

She said she was living blissful life when she was married and savored her motherhood when she take care of her children. However, life soured soon after she got estranged from her husband due to jealousy and trivial reasons that do not hold water. Her family split and her children went to their grandparents, for there was no one else to give support.

According to Fatima, her divorce suddenly tempted her to flee the country and go abroad in search of work as a domestic helper in Arab countries (the modern slavery for illiterate women coming from Africa and far-east countries like Philippines).She said heartless broker who was her distant acquaintance wooed her to pay him 30,000 Birr and help her migrate to Yemen.

Fatima regretted that her journey to Yemen was perilous and devastative. Callous trafficker accompanied her illegally to the Ethio-Djibouti border. The other trafficker who received her from the Ethiopian dealer had pressed her to pay him 20,000 Birr. She had no other alternative but to pay and cross over to Yemen. She said she managed to overhear traffickers talking about their business that the boat that boarded her to Yemen was coming from the lawless areas of Somalia.

She luckily sighed in relief when the boat briefly called at the border of Yemen to drop her and others from Somalia, before it fled away unnoticed. She said she survived her journey squeezed in to contraband goods, teeming with alcohol, cigarette and various armaments she does not know for sure and has not seen before. Endless tragedies, national embarrassments and allegations are floating up related to spate of accidents and deaths encountering Ethiopians while they are trying go abroad using illegal traffickers.

The death of Ethiopians had been broken by international media institutions (be it drowning in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to migrate to Europe or smothering being throttled by the air-tight container vehicles of traffickers). Fresh allegations are surfacing that close to 20 Ethiopians had died of suffocation in a container truck driven by illegal human traffickers. All Ethiopians had been said to be young job seekers suspected to be wooed by the heinous snare of traffickers who are cold-bloodedly and brutally conducting merchandizing business on human lives.

According to AFP, Ethiopians had been found dead on the Congolese border adjoining Zambia. They were said to be died of asphyxia for being crammed in to a lorry, carrying nearly 100 stowaways, after local officials were alerted by some tips that gripped their attentions. The remaining 76 Ethiopians were found alive when the Zambian-registered truck was stopped by Congolese patrols.

Similarly, IOM had stated that over 70 Ethiopians that had been incarcerated in the penitentiaries of Tanzania were released and expatriated to their country. IOM said it had assisted Ethiopians that were stranded in Tanzania and struggling hard to return home safely. It said Ethiopians were arrested while they were attempting to cross over to South Africa via Tanzania (prisoners had spent various length of years).

It said individuals had stated that smuggler making arrangements for travelers charged them 100,000 birr for their trip which is insatiable modus operandi of illegal smugglers. They said traffickers had consumed all of their saving that cost them their lives(some regret that they would have made big fortune had they wholeheartedly been engaged in domestic businesses available at home).

Up on their arrival in Addis Ababa, adult returnees were said to be provided with temporary accommodation, medical support, reinsertion allowance and transportation to their respective home towns. Some 21 unaccompanied minors are at IOM transit Center in Addis Ababa awaiting family tracing and reunification which is being carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs of Ethiopia and UNICEF. As to UN, human trafficking turns over 32 billion USD annually. It is lucrative industry and about 2.5 million people around the world are ensnared in the web of human trafficking.

Modern day trafficking is a type of slavery that involves the transport or trade of people for the purpose various undertakings. Human trafficking is cruel type of slavery because it removes the victim from all that is familiar to her, rendering her completely isolated and alone, often unable to speak the language of her captors or fellow victims.

According to a scholar from Adigrat University, Gabriel Temesgen Trafficking is a complex phenomenon that is often driven or influenced by social, economic, cultural and other factors. Human trafficking affects every country of the world, as countries of origin, transit or destination - or even a combination of all. Trafficking often occurs from less developed countries to more developed countries, where people are rendered vulnerable to trafficking by virtue of poverty, conflict or other conditions.

He said trafficking in human beings is to a large extent a symptom of poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity which force millions of people to look for a better life by moving away from the places they call home. Human trafficking appears to be the worst human development outcome linked to increasing global mobility. It is a form of modern day slavery that stripped people off their human rights, dignity and freedoms.

Despite this very fact, survey conducted on illegal migrants trying to migrate via border towns like Metema and Moyale showed that men, women and girls are trapped by traffickers in a variety of ways. Some are lured with offers of legitimate work as shop assistants or waitresses. Others are promised marriage, educational opportunities and a better life. Still others are sold into trafficking by boyfriends, friends, neighbors or even by unknowing parents.

Trafficking victims often pass among multiple traffickers, moving further and further from their home countries. Women often travel through multiple countries before ending at their final destination. For example, women from Ethiopia may be sold to a human trafficker in Sudan and Kenya, who then passing their way on to a trafficker in Libya or Tanzania. Along the way they become confused and disoriented. Typically, once in the custody of traffickers, a victims’ passport and official papers are confiscated and held. Victims are told they are in the destination country illegally, which increases victims' dependence on their traffickers. Victims are often kept in captivity and also trapped into debt bondage, whereby they are obliged to pay back large recruitment and transportation fees before being released from their traffickers.

Many victims report being charged additional fines or fees while under bondage, requiring them to work longer to pay off their debts. Human trafficking victims of Ethiopia (and other countries alike) experience various stages of abuse and physical and psychological torture. Victims are often deprived of food and sleep, are unable to move about freely, and are physically tortured.

In order to keep women captive, victims are told their families and their children will be harmed or murdered if they try to escape or tell anyone about their situation. Because victims rarely understand the culture and language of the country into which they had been trafficked, they experience another layer of psychological stress and frustration.

Trafficking has a harrowing effect on the mental, emotional and physical well being of women and girls ensnared in its web. Beyond the physical abuse, trafficked women suffer extreme emotional stress, including shame, grief, fear, distrust and suicidal thoughts. Victims often experience post-traumatic stress disorder, and with that, acute anxiety, depression and insomnia. Many victims turn to drugs and alcohol to numb and abate the pain.

As a witness, Federal Transport Authority said that transporters that are not being legally dispatched are exacerbating the problem of human trafficking. According to the Authority, illegal traffickers are using, unauthorized and unlicensed minibuses that are usually known for over speeding and are dubbed as high or low ceiling ‘’Abbadullas’’. Traffickers use these vehicles through stealthy machination of changing their number plate, hiding it not to be noticed properly and over speeding at night and day times aimed to escape the prying and scrutinizing eyes of the greater public and traffic personnel.

These vehicles, with their over-speeding capacity to unimaginably cruise and cross over to another country within a day or so are worsening the problem of human trafficking. In addition, these vehicles are covertly conveying guns and smuggled goods from one border of the country to another within a short span of time which is indeed difficult to trace in running after and attempt of chasing. To make things labyrinthine, some privy individuals said that Abbadulla vehicles scurry from Moyale to the heart of Khartoum via Addis Ababa unnoticed, their drivers and owners employing gimmick license, numerous vehicles and number plates and devising elusive technique of disguise and camouflage.

Some of the causes of human trafficking are structural in character and require long-term solutions. At the same time, the seriousness of the problem and its changing nature require immediate and rapid response, timely measures, and the flexibility to rethink and change direction where necessary. In this regard, though not ample enough when viewed from the depth of the problem, Ethiopia has so far undertaken encouraging activities to stem the flood of human trafficking and prevent its negative effects. For instance, it has amended various rules and regulations that could improve the safety of work environment and legal travel to and from the country for the purpose of searching jobs.

Besides, the government has been providing awareness-enhancing education about the problem of human trafficking. However, the problem is entrenched and aggravated which could not be prevented by the single-handed effort of the government over night (as the current system of human trafficking is well-organized and chameleonic enough to change its face a breast of time and technology).

So far, the government has also labor migration agreements with Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, among others. It is expected to conclude same agreement with other countries that are thought to be the destinations of Ethiopians’ keen search of labor market. The government has showed improved commitment to collaboratively work with destination countries and governments in an effort to improve protections for Ethiopian workers.

Some economic theoreticians say combating human trafficking could be addressed through micro-credits used to help women start up and run their own petty businesses. They are particularly effective when combined with literacy programs and product marketing support. Hence, in view of unfathomable problem of human trafficking, they advise that strengthening these kinds of assistances far better than the previous time would help alleviate problems of women from being affected by the enticement of traffickers.

Similarly, increasing public awareness about the issue and supporting victims with necessary services are very crucial to successfully combat trafficking. Particularly, women must also be encouraged to participate actively at all levels of social and political affairs of the society to better enhance their awareness about development efforts and job opportunities in their localities.

As part of the effort to combat the problem, community management should also be created to deal with human trafficking problems at the grassroots level. In this regard, local communities and regional governments have to work together to address these issues (since local communities are the ones that can deal with the problem successfully at the grassroots level). Currently, combating terrorism is an exigent task of Ethiopia. The government has called on all stakeholders to strengthen tailored efforts designed to prevent human trafficking. In doing so, the government has expressed unyielding commitment to coordinate and harmonize the backing of citizens, parents, religious institutions and NGOs that may contribute their own to achieve breakthrough results in the anti-human trafficking struggle.

Parents, taking the call of the government to their heart, as predominant victims of trafficking, should step up their effort to prevent the problem. Particularly, they should advise their daughters and sons to refrain from making illegal journey being tricked by rapacious and predator traffickers. Conflict broke out not long after Fatima entered Yemen. She had been luckily repatriated to her country by the effort of the Ethiopian government(free air ticket granted by Ethiopian air lines) when war erupted in Yemen and things got out of control due to unceasing gun battle.

The epiphany come when her friend told her about the assistance the government is providing to organized women interested to engaged in small and micro businesses .Currently, her life has started to change day after day after she and her friends have started petty businesses of home economics and animal husbandry, with seed money loaned from the government.

She said sale of dairy products and home-cooked edibles are becoming profitable that enabled her to be confident and financially independent. She regrets the time she ignorantly followed the enticement of traffickers to reap only misery and unspeakable ordeal in a desert. Now she is advising her sisters that they should not mull over going abroad and suffer while there are lots of business alternatives to be undertaken here.

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