Trafficking in Persons Report 2008 - Ethiopia


Ethiopia is a source country for men, women, and children trafficked primarily for the purpose of forced labor and, to a lesser extent, for commercial sexual exploitation. Rural Ethiopian children and adults are trafficked to urban areas for domestic servitude and, less frequently, for commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor, such as in street vending, begging, traditional weaving, or agriculture; situations of debt bondage have been reported. Ethiopian women are trafficked trans-nationally for domestic servitude primarily to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the U.A.E., but also to Bahrain, Djibouti, Kuwait, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. Some of these women are trafficked into the sex trade after arriving at their destinations, while others have been trafficked onward from Lebanon to Turkey, Italy, and Greece. Small numbers of men are trafficked to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States for low-skilled forced labor.

The Government of Ethiopia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. While the Ethiopian government's ongoing efforts to provide pre-departure orientation to Ethiopian migrant workers and partner with a local NGO to detect cases of child trafficking within the country are notable, its limited capacity to prosecute these crimes is a continued cause for concern. Police investigators remain unable to properly distinguish trafficking cases from those of other crimes or to conduct solid, well-documented investigations, and the judicial system routinely fails to appropriately track the status of trafficking cases moving through the courts.

Recommendations for Ethiopia: Improve the investigative capacity of police and enhance judicial understanding of trafficking to allow for more convictions of traffickers; institute trafficking awareness training for diplomats posted overseas; partner with local NGOs to increase the level of services available to trafficking victims returning from abroad; and launch a campaign to increase awareness of internal trafficking at the local and regional levels.


While the government sustained its efforts to initiate trafficking investigations during the reporting period, prosecution of cases referred to the prosecutor's office remained inadequate, with only three specific convictions reported in the last year. In addition, law enforcement entities continued to lack the institutional capacity to separate data on trafficking cases from broader fraud cases. Ethiopia's Penal Code prohibits all forms of trafficking for labor and sexual exploitation. These statutes prescribe punishments of five to 20 years' imprisonment, punishments that are sufficiently stringent and exceed those prescribed for other grave crimes, such as rape. During the year, the Ministry of Labor (MOLSA) completed its revision of Proclamation 104/98, which governs the work of international employment agencies, in a manner that improves coordination, supervision, and control mechanisms designed to protect Ethiopian migrant workers from fraudulent recruitment and debt bondage situations.

In 2007, the Child Protection Unit at the central bus terminal reported 694 cases of child trafficking to the police, a decrease over the previous year. Of these, 50 cases were referred to the prosecutor's office; 30 were subsequently closed for lack of evidence or the escape of defendants and the remaining 20 cases are pending prosecution. Law enforcement data was not reported for areas outside of the capital. Of the 23 child trafficking cases pending prosecution at the end of 2006, 12 were dropped in 2007 and eight remained under investigation; the status of the other three cases was not reported. In regard to justice for trafficked migrant laborers, the Addis Ababa federal high court prosecutor's office reported 330 trafficking-related cases dating back seven to nine years involving charges such as the illegal sending of Ethiopians abroad, disappearances of migrant workers (abductions), visa fraud, rape, and physical abuse; prosecution of some of these cases is pending. In March 2008, the federal high court sentenced a man to five years' imprisonment for trafficking more than 40 Ethiopian men to work for a Saudi Arabian construction company, where they were forced to provide unpaid manual labor and experienced physical abuse. In November 2007, the court found a woman guilty of violating Proclamation 104/90 by illegally sending an Ethiopian female to Qatar where she was mistreated and not paid; she was sentenced to two years' imprisonment and fined $2,630. A third defendant was sentenced in January 2008 to one year's imprisonment and fined $2,630 for trafficking a female domestic worker to Dubai. A small number of local police and border control agents are believed to accept bribes to overlook trafficking.


Although the government lacks the resources to provide direct assistance to trafficking victims or to fund NGOs that provide victim care, police employ victim identification and referral procedures in the capital, regularly referring identified victims to NGOs for care. During the year, the Child Protection Units (CPUs) – joint police-NGO identification and referral units operating in each Addis Ababa police station – rescued and referred children to the CPU in the central bus terminal, which is dedicated exclusively to identifying and obtaining care for trafficked children. In 2007, this unit collected information on 694 trafficked children to facilitate their return to their families. It referred 25 children to IOM and 137 to a local NGO for care and family tracing, and assisted another local NGO in the reunification of 161 children with their relatives in Addis Ababa. As a result of an increase in social work personnel, the Addis Ababa Social and Civil Affairs Office – a government entity – reunified an additional 62 children with their families in the capital. Local police and officials in the regional administrations assisted in the repatriation of trafficked children to their home areas. Ethiopian missions in Jeddah, Riyadh, and Beirut have offices that provide services to the local Ethiopian community, including limited engagement and advice on labor-related problems. As a general matter, Ethiopian officials abroad received limited training on recognizing or responding to human trafficking and remained largely uninformed of the issue. Several local NGO service providers have designed and made available re-entry survey tools; however, the government made no effort to interview returned victims about their experiences in the Middle East. Returned women rely heavily on the few NGOs that work with adult victims and psychological services provided by the government's Emmanuel Mental Health Hospital. In 2007, there were anecdotal reports of returned trafficking victims being detained, jailed, or prosecuted for violations of laws, such as those governing prostitution or immigration.


Ethiopia's efforts to prevent international trafficking increased, while measures to heighten awareness of internal trafficking remained limited. In conjunction with the Ministry of Education and state-controlled Ethiopian Television and Radio Broadcasting systems, IOM produced public service announcements that aired on local television and radio stations in four languages. While the number of in-country legal labor migration employment agencies rose from 36 to 72 between 2005 and 2007, the government significantly tightened its implementation of various labor and employment agency provisions; two employment agencies were suspended and remain under investigation for exploitative labor practices. In previous years, MOLSA subcontracted IOM to provide migrating domestic workers with pre-departure orientation sessions. During the reporting period, MOLSA assumed a leadership role over this awareness programming, employing two full-time counselors to provide pre-departure orientation on the risks of labor migration to 20,256 Ethiopian migrant workers. The Inter-Ministerial Task Force on Trafficking met during the reporting period and established four sub-committees on research, information, media, and legal affairs. From April through June 2007, the Task Force provided anti-trafficking capacity training to over 100 justice bureau and regional Supreme Court officials and police across nine regions and two city administrations, including rigorous training on Ethiopia's May 2005 antitrafficking penal code revisions. The government did not undertake efforts to reduce demand for commercial sex acts during the reporting period. Before deploying on international peacekeeping missions, Ethiopian soldiers received training on human rights and rules of engagement from a foreign military. Ethiopia has not ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

Ethiopia tier ranking by year


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.