Somaliland, migrant consolation prize for Middle East dreams

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Life seemed comfortable for Abiy Aschalew, when he found himself in the self declared state of Somaliland. Born in Abergeleë a small wereda in Amhara Regional State, Abiy initially dreamed of arriving in a Middle Eastern country.
Human Trafficking in Ethiopia occurs internally and externally in the form of adult and child labor and sex trafficking. There are also reports of organ trafficking and other related human rights violations, like child marriage, and exploitation.
Abiy, now in his mid-20’s, was unable to continue preparatory education due to poor grades so he chose to move to Addis Ababa to work and support himself and his family.
His father gave him 1,500 birr for transportation and other accommodations after convincing him to continue his education in an extension program and work during the day time.
Economic insecurity and poverty often push families to look for alternative modalities to support the family, and demands for workers in weaving and farming have pulled children and women into human trafficking to meet these demands.
An international organization has reported that most traffickers are small local operators, often from the victims’ own communities, but that well-structured, hierarchical, organized crime groups are also responsible for irregular migrants becoming highly susceptible to trafficking. Labor recruiters target young people from Ethiopia’s vast rural areas with promises of a better life.
According to the study made by IOM, labor trafficking is the most common form of exploitation in Ethiopia, although sex trafficking has also been reported, and some researchers suggest that transnational adoption and organ harvesting should be investigated as a form of external trafficking including extensive concerns over the trafficking of women for domestic labor to countries east of the Horn of Africa.
“You can learn your class there, I will recruit you in the best café’ where you can earn handsome tips up to a hundred birr in half a day,” said a broker in his area who worked for two years in Addis Ababa and then moved to the gulf states after collecting money for the next journey.
For external trafficking, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and of course Europe are the destinations. However, the routes are in Sudan, Kenya, Djibouti, and Somaliland.
For those who are not successful at having a settled life in Somaliland, like Abiy, human trafficking is common. There are around 50 victims a day.
“The delay in implementing a legal agreement with UAE on overseas employment contributed to the problem and benefits human traffickers,” said Feleke Belay, from the Hargeisa Consulate of Ethiopia, adding that they are gravely concerned over the increasing number of illegal migrants entering Somaliland.
People are heading to United Arab Emirates, via air Arebia and fly Dubai. Large numbers of Ethiopians are being deceived and lured by illegal agents so they flee the country and become engulfed in life risking journey, adds, Deputy Consul, Feleke Belay.
According to Feleke, just a year after, the journey which is mostly from eastern part of the country they commonly are lured by false promises of smugglers, borders of Somaliland accommodate hundreds of Ethiopian migrants every day.
The plan to send Ethiopians to UAE is a short-term measure to reduce unemployment in Ethiopia and to cope with increasing job demands, sending employees to one of its closest allies UAE, even if, the agreements have not been realized so far. However, while many more Ethiopians were waiting for the official agreements of the two countries, to travel to the gulf nation, the delay has created another loophole that the system to be easily exploited by human traffickers. Several networked brokers extended from Ethiopia to UAE are becoming major players in facilitating the visa application for the draw-in job seekers, by processing from the UAE Embassy Addis Ababa, said the deputy consul. Feleke indicated that a few weeks ago, the Somaliland Ethiopian Consul received information of at least 90 Ethiopians flying through the Hargeisa Airport via Air Arabia and Fly Dubai, due to official prohibition of Ethiopian women traveling to UAE via Addis Ababa.
Feleke thinks the big headache is not about people who are flying illegally through the Hargeisa airport by means of the human traffickers. However, there is another harsh situation where ethnically organized smugglers are torching Ethiopians by dropping a piece of melting plastic on their body to let their families know the terrifying painful sound so they will send the money. Surprisingly, there are smugglers settled in Somaliland in a place named Yogori and that is the place where migrants are held hostage and torched until they have received money from their relatives. Some of the smugglers are armed and, Feleke, noted that the latest rumble was between security forces and human traffickers.
Accidents are common on the route, some weeks ago, at least 11 people died while the driver filled up 28 people in a minibus with a 12-person capacity.
“Human traffickers are networked and camped in one of the border areas plus the money they receive from the hostage families through the bank.”
Such acts are known by the government of Ethiopia and there are times when the police force demolishes their temporary shelters in the boarder
Travelers don’t have sufficient information regarding the issue. What they said is: “there is no job at home and we don’t have any other choice but to stay, said the Deputy Consul, noting that the desperate voices that he has heard while talking to travelers. The exact number of Ethiopian refugees and migrants heading to Somaliland is unclear, but large numbers of people are fleeing.
Ethiopia has recently been identified as a country with a burgeoning human trafficking problem, although accurate rates of the number of trafficking victims are difficult to find the U.S. Department of State said.
The exact size and extent of the problem is not known, but media, government, and advocacy groups have increasingly raised concerns over human trafficking in Ethiopia in recent years.
Families continue to play a major role in financing irregular migration, and may force or coerce their children to go abroad or to urban areas in Ethiopia for employment.
The year 2019 has also seen a spike in arrivals of East African refugees and migrants there. Latest estimates show that the monthly average of migrants arriving in Yemen this year is 18,500, the highest number since data became available in 2006.
Abiy and other Ethiopians living in Somaliland say they are content as the people of Somaliland are friendly and respectful considering Ethiopian gratitude during bad times of civil war but they still dream of traveling to gulf states.