The Government of Ethiopia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Ethiopia remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by assisting in the interception of more than 30,000 individuals vulnerable to trafficking and convicted 640 traffickers, an increase from 69 convicted during the previous year. The government made robust efforts to prevent and raise awareness on trafficking and trafficking-related crimes through its community conversations project and media campaigns, and trained government officials on various elements of the crime. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. It did not sufficiently address internal trafficking, including child sex trafficking. It remained without standard procedures for front-line responders to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable intending migrants. For the second consecutive year, the government did not implement the revised overseas employment proclamation that provides for improved oversight of and more strenuously penalizes illegal recruitment.

Increase efforts to convict traffickers, including for trafficking within Ethiopia, and compile and publicize trafficking statistics; improve the investigative capacity of police throughout the country to increase prosecutions of internal child trafficking offenses; continue to implement and train law enforcement and judicial officials on the anti-trafficking proclamation; fully implement the 2016 national referral mechanism; partner with local NGOs to improve services available to trafficking victims, including allocating funding to enable the continuous operation of a government or NGO-run shelter; improve oversight of overseas recruitment agencies and implement the overseas employment proclamation, assign and train labor attaches, and investigate and prosecute illicit recruiters; expand trafficking awareness training for labor officials who validate employment contracts or regulate employment agencies; improve screening procedures in the distribution of national identification cards and passports to prevent their fraudulent issuance to children; allocate appropriate funding for the deployment of labor attaches to overseas diplomatic missions to assist Ethiopians seeking work or employed overseas; and incorporate information on human trafficking and labor rights in Middle Eastern and other countries into pre-departure training provided to all migrant workers.

The government increased its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; however, it continued to focus on transnational labor trafficking, with negligible investigation or prosecution of sex trafficking or internal forced labor cases. The 2015 Proclamation to Provide for the Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants, No. 909/2015, criminalizes all forms of trafficking, prescribing penalties of 15-25 years imprisonment and a fine of 150,000 to 300,000 birr ($6,696 to $13,393), which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. The Employment Exchange Services Proclamation No. 632/2009, which governs the work of licensed labor recruitment agencies, remained unimplemented during the year.

In 2016, federal and regional justice officials investigated 1,392 potential trafficking cases and convicted 640 traffickers under the 2015 anti-trafficking law, a significant increase from 69 convictions in 2015; however, an unknown number fell outside the reporting period, and some cases in both years likely involved smuggling. A March 2015 investigation of two Ethiopian smugglers suspected of moving 38,000 Ethiopians, potentially including trafficking victims, to South Africa and the Middle East for unknown purposes, remained open. Financial and capacity constraints continued to impede data compilation by regional police, and poor communication and coordination between the regions and the federal government also hindered effective law enforcement efforts. The government continued to partner with international organizations to conduct and fund trainings for regional and federal government personnel on the anti-trafficking proclamation and on victim-centered investigative skills for detecting trafficking crimes. The government provided space, technical and logistical support for two trainings conducted by an international organization; these trainings targeted approximately 35 police, prosecutors, and judges. Another international organization, in partnership with the government, facilitated two workshops for 61 labor inspectors and other relevant officials on how to combat child trafficking. During the year, in Bahir Dar, approximately 60 regional officials attended a government-organized training on child trafficking, and an Ethiopian delegation traveled to the Philippines to learn best practices for curbing child trafficking. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of public officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking offenses.

The government maintained modest efforts to protect trafficking victims. The national committee to coordinate anti-trafficking efforts, chaired by the deputy prime minister, was fully operational during the year; however, the government did not report if the Council of Ministers issued the implementing regulations to the anti-trafficking proclamation pertaining to protective services for victims. The government continued to partner with international organizations and NGOs to provide services to victims; although it did not allocate funding to these entities, it provided some in-kind support, including land, facilities, staff, and other logistical services on an ad hoc basis. The 2009 charities and societies proclamation, which prohibits organizations receiving more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources from engaging in activities that promote human rights, restricted some NGOs’ ability to provide protective services to trafficking victims. The government lacked standard procedures for front-line responders to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable outbound populations. In 2016, federal and regional governments intercepted approximately 30,000 persons in the border areas of Ethiopia, the vast majority of whom were intending to depart for work in Gulf states and other African countries, and many were minors—a population vulnerable to trafficking; however, an unknown number were intercepted outside of the reporting period. The government continued to jointly operate two migration response centers in Afar and Metema with an international organization. The government operated child protection units in Addis Ababa and several major cities; staff was trained in assisting vulnerable children, including potential trafficking victims. Police and civil service transport workers—trained to recognize child trafficking victims—referred the majority of intercepted children to local shelters. Two NGOs in Addis Ababa provided comprehensive reintegration services, familial reunification, medical care, mental health counseling, legal counsel, food and housing, and vocational training to more than 900 women and child victims repatriated after enduring trafficking; these NGOs operated without any governmental funding or in-kind support. The government’s assistance to repatriated victims improved. During the year, the government, in collaboration with an international organization, repatriated more than 3,700 Ethiopian trafficking victims from Djibouti, Egypt, Malawi, Mozambique, Yemen, Oman, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Saudi Arabia. The government provided victim identification services and sometimes negotiated discounted air fares for returnees. Some Ethiopian missions in the Gulf states had shelters for trafficking victims on respective mission compounds.

In 2016, the government, in conjunction with an international organization, finalized a national mechanism for referring repatriated trafficking victims to social services; although it is in effect, reports suggest implementation is still nascent. While officials reported encouraging victims in some cases to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, the number of victims who took an active role in these processes was unknown and it was unclear whether they were afforded legal assistance or other support to facilitate their doing so. The 2015 anti-trafficking proclamation extends to trafficking victims protections outlined under the Witness and Whistleblowers Protection Proclamation (No. 699/2010); it mandates extensive protections and rights for trafficking victims, including protection from prosecution for acts committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. Ethiopian law does not provide alternatives to the deportation of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. There were no reports the government detained, jailed, fined, or otherwise penalized victims for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking in 2016, although the government housed some victims at police stations who were waiting to provide testimony in their respective trafficking cases.

The government maintained robust efforts to prevent trafficking. In 2016, Parliament approved a second National Human Rights Action Plan, spanning 2016-2020, which included various activities to curb trafficking, including a media campaign and increased efforts in urban centers to assist women and child victims. However, the government did not report allocating specific funding for the action plan. The attorney general’s office, in conjunction with an international organization, organized a workshop for 80 members of the national media to increase awareness of the anti-trafficking proclamation. Local and regional state governments, employing community conversations as an awareness-raising mechanism, continued to host and facilitate hundreds of sessions throughout the country, reaching hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians. Officials produced television and radio public service announcements and interviews to elevate the public’s awareness of the dangers of trafficking, which, in addition to the general public, strategically reached religious and traditional leaders, elders, and media personnel.

The government maintained its 2013 ban on the recruitment of low-skilled domestic workers to the Middle East, which it intended to keep until the establishment of all bilateral work agreements with destination countries and the enactment and implementation of a revised employment exchange proclamation. While the employment exchange proclamation came into effect in the previous reporting period, allowing for greater oversight of private employment agencies, placement of labor attaches in Ethiopian embassies, and establishment of an independent agency to identify and train migrant workers, it was largely unimplemented during the reporting period. Officials worked with approximately 100 private employment agencies, licensed to send workers abroad, to ensure the agencies understood their obligations under the revised overseas employment proclamation. In adherence to the proclamation, the government, in conjunction with an international organization, began training awareness-raising facilitators in specific migration prone localities on how to provide pre-employment and pre-departure training for potential migrant workers. In 2016, the government was still in negotiation with Saudi Arabia and the UAE on bilateral employment agreements; Ethiopia had such agreements in place with Qatar, Kuwait, and Jordan. These agreements require signatories to commit to ethical recruitment, legal remedies against those who violate the law, and equal protection of Ethiopian workers, to include equal wages for equal work, reasonable working hours, and leave time. Memoranda remained in place with neighboring African countries—particularly Djibouti, and on an ad hoc basis with Kenya and Sudan—aim to provide joint border management to include repatriation assistance for trafficking victims; however, workers’ rights are not explicitly addressed. While the government reported conducting thousands of scheduled and random labor inspections, it did not report any suspension of licenses of labor recruitment agencies or employers for labor law violations.

Ethiopian officials continued efforts to implement a 2012 law requiring registration of all births nationwide; however, the lack of a uniform national identity card continued to impede implementation of the law and allowed for the continued issuance of district-level identity cards, whose dispersion is subject to fraud. The government made limited efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts, forced labor, or child sex tourism during the reporting period. The government continued to include anti-trafficking training as a basic training requirement for its diplomatic personnel. A foreign donor and facilitator provided Ethiopian troops with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions.

As reported over the past five years, Ethiopia is a source and, to a lesser extent, destination and transit country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Scarce economic opportunities and dire poverty coupled with familial encouragement compels thousands of Ethiopians, including a substantial percentage of minors, to transit, primarily via Djibouti or Somalia, to Yemen and onward to Saudi Arabia; to illegally cross the southern border into Kenya and further south into Tanzania with a final destination of South Africa; or, less commonly, to travel through Sudan and Libya with the hope of crossing the Mediterranean and ultimately reaching Europe. Reports suggest that along these three main routes, irregular Ethiopian migrants who began their journeys voluntarily are subsequently vulnerable to sexual exploitation or forced labor in transit countries and in their intended destinations. The Ethiopian government’s 2013 ban on domestic worker employment in Gulf states remained in effect at the end of the reporting period, but irregular labor migration to these countries continued to be a significant problem resulting in increased vulnerability to trafficking. Saudi Arabia remains the primary destination for irregular migrants; reportedly, over 400,000 Ethiopians reside there. Saudi officials regularly deport Ethiopians in large numbers, and many of the deportees reported instances of sexual exploitation. Many Ethiopian women working in domestic service in the Middle East are subjected to severe abuses, including physical and sexual assault, denial of salary, sleep deprivation, passport confiscation, and confinement. Ethiopian women who migrate for work or flee abusive employers in the Middle East are also vulnerable to sex trafficking. Ethiopian men and boys migrate to the Gulf states and other African nations, where some are subjected to forced labor. An international organization claims that unrest in the Oromia region during the reporting period resulted in an uptick in ethnic Oromo migrants fleeing to Djibouti. Previous reports suggested district-level officials accepted bribes to alter ages on identification cards, allowing children to acquire passports without parental consent and enabling minors to leave the country for work.

An international organization assesses that most traffickers are small local operators, often from the victims’ own communities, but that well-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. Although reports remain anecdotal, the severe drought in 2015-2016 may have resulted in an increase in internal trafficking. Girls from Ethiopia’s impoverished rural areas are exploited in domestic servitude and commercial sex within the country, while boys are subjected to forced labor in traditional weaving, construction, agriculture, and street vending. Addis Ababa’s central market is the site of numerous brothels, where some young girls are exploited in commercial sex. Ethiopian girls are exploited in domestic servitude and commercial sex in neighboring African countries, particularly Sudan. Ethiopian boys are subjected to forced labor in Djibouti as shop assistants, errand boys, domestic workers, and street beggars, in addition to forced criminality. Child sex tourism continues to be a problem in major hubs, including Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Hawassa, and Bishoftu; reports identify mostly Ethiopian-born perpetrators, including members of the diaspora, with known links to local hotels, brokers, and taxi drivers.

U.S. Department of State

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