The government modestly increased its efforts to protect trafficking victims. The government continued to partner with international organizations and NGOs to identify and 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 support 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 remained without a formal mechanism to proactively identify potential trafficking victims. In 2017, federal and regional governments intercepted 10,655 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—populations most vulnerable to trafficking. The government supported 167 children at risk of, or exploited in, sex trafficking in Amhara. The government continued to jointly operate two migration response centers in Afar and Metema with an international organization, and provided rent-free usage of the facilities. The government maintained operation of 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. In 2017, one NGO cooperated with the local police to identify traffickers, and intercepted, rehabilitated, and provided psycho-social support for more than 1,000 internal child trafficking victims. Another NGO—focused on transnational cases—maintained provisions of comprehensive re-integration services, familial reunification, medical care, mental health counseling, legal counsel, food and housing, and vocational training for women and children. There continued to be a dearth of care available for male trafficking victims. During the year, the government, in collaboration with an international organization, repatriated more than 10,000 Ethiopian migrants from Saudi Arabia. In addition, an international organization helped repatriate and provided post-arrival assistance for more than 2,690 Ethiopians from the Gulf states. Since the government lacked funding to repatriate all of its nationals, it assisted with victim identification services in respective countries and sometimes negotiated discounted air fares for returnees. Some Ethiopian diplomatic missions in the Gulf states and Sudan had shelters for trafficking victims on respective mission compounds where they could stay temporarily, and the missions engaged with host government authorities on the individual’s behalf.
The 2015 anti-trafficking proclamation established a fund to support victim protection and rehabilitation efforts; however, the government did not report efforts to begin financial allocations to and administration of the fund. Implementation of the national mechanism for referring repatriated trafficking victims to social services remained limited for the second consecutive year. Under the national referral mechanism, the anti-trafficking task force is the lead coordinator for referring trafficking victims to services, but an international organization and other government entities play vital roles. The mechanism incorporates special identification and screening tactics for child trafficking victims, in addition to the profiling of voluntary returnees and deportees at the Bole International Airport. During the reporting period, the anti-trafficking task force, in partnership with an international organization, promulgated the referral mechanism in two critical regions: Tigray and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR). In addition to the national referral mechanism, regional governments work with local and federal police to refer victims to shelters and other protective services. However, the government continued to lack standardized proactive screening procedures to detect potential trafficking victims.
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 the government provided them 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), which included protection from prosecution for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking. However, Ethiopian law did not provide alternatives to the deportation of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution. There were no reports any trafficking victims were deported without proper screening or detained, fined, jailed, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking in 2017; however, the government housed at police stations some victims who were waiting to provide testimony in their respective trafficking cases.