The issue of trafficking in persons from and within Ethiopia has become a critical issue of concern for the country. The level of concern is clearly reflected in the increased media coverage of the situation of victims of trafficking as well as the measures taken by the government to address the problem through legislative, policy and programmatic mechanisms. While the current attention to the issue is to be commended, there also appears to be some level of confusion as to what trafficking in persons is. The current brief article is an attempt to help clarify the problem.
The UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Person, Especially Women and Children that supplements the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (2000), known as the Palermo Protocol, defines trafficking in human beings as: ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation’. Where children are concerned, the Protocol stipulates that ‘recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation shall be considered ‘trafficking in persons’ even if this does not involve any of the means set forth in the definition.’ Trafficking in persons consists of three essential components: 1st) Recruitment – by force or deception; 2nd) Transportation – within a country or across borders, legally or illegally; and, 3rd) Exploitation – traffickers financially benefit through the use or sale of the victim.
The complex phenomenon of trafficking is often confused with other forms of people movement, such as irregular migration and smuggling. As a result, people who have been trafficked are treated as criminals rather than victims. Migration is the movement of people from one place to another within a country, or from one country to another prompted by the need for work, a better life, the fear of persecution, work, the horrors of war or disaster, or just because they want to live somewhere else.
A study conducted by IOM and other institutions indicated that 76.7% of all Ethiopian migrant workers living in the Middle Eastern countries engaged in different sectors of employment are victims of trafficking. Other studies have indicated that 7.5% of all Ethiopian migrants who have left their country for employment and other purposes were between the ages of 13 – 17 years at the time of their migration. The Study also showed that 87.1% of these migrants were trafficked.The Ethiopian Embassy in South Africa estimated that approximately 45,000 to 50,000 Ethiopians live in South Africa. It is estimated that 95% or more of these Ethiopian arrivals enter South Africa through irregular means.