The government maintained modest efforts to protect trafficking victims. The government sustained close partnerships 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 on an ad hoc basis. In 2018, federal and regional governments intercepted more than 10,100 adults and children across Ethiopia, the vast majority of whom were intending to depart for work in Gulf States and other African countries, on par with the roughly 10,600 persons it diverted the previous year; the government provided an unknown number of these potential victims with shelter, healthcare, psychological support, and rehabilitative skills trainings for alternative employment. However, the government remained without standardized procedures for the proactive identification and referral of internal and transnational trafficking victims during the reporting year. It is therefore likely that some victims among these populations were not provided proper care. 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 government facilities. The government maintained operation of child protection units in Addis Ababa and several major cities, which aimed to intercept and care for child trafficking victims identified as being en route from rural to urban areas. Police and civil service transport workers—trained to recognize internal child trafficking victims—referred the majority of intercepted children to local shelters. Officials provided shelter, food, education, medical assistance, and familial reunification where feasible. An NGO focused on transnational trafficking cases continued to provide comprehensive reintegration 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, although in 2018 an NGO opened two rehabilitation centers for vulnerable men and unaccompanied children. During the year, the government collaborated with an international organization to repatriate and provide assistance for more than 2,600 Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia, a small fraction of the overall returnees from this Gulf state. 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 had shelters for victims on respective mission compounds where they could stay temporarily, and the missions engaged with host government authorities on behalf of victims.
The 2015 anti-trafficking proclamation established a fund to support victim protection and rehabilitation efforts funded through fines imposed on, and the sale of confiscated property from traffickers. These funds were augmented by voluntary contributions from foreign donors and other government agencies; however, similar to the previous year, the government did not report efforts to begin financial allocations to and administration of the fund. The national referral mechanism, which remained unimplemented and only unofficially finalized, designated the anti-trafficking task force as the lead coordinator for identifying and referring trafficking victims to services. An international organization and other government entities played vital roles in implementation of the referral process. The mechanism incorporates special identification and screening tactics for child trafficking victims, in addition to the profiling of potential trafficking victims among voluntary returnees and deportees at the Bole International Airport. During the reporting period, the anti-trafficking task force, in partnership with an international organization, developed and promulgated to key government ministries a special screening form intended to assist in the accurate identification of trafficking victims. Although the overarching victim referral mechanism has been unofficially in effect since 2016, civil society reported it remained nascent and unimplemented. Similarly, implementation of the national mechanism for referring repatriated trafficking victims to social services also remained limited due to weak interagency coordination and a dearth of resources. During the reporting year, however, the government developed standard operating procedures for victim identification and referral. In addition to the national referral mechanism, regional governments worked 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 among vulnerable populations, particularly migrant laborers and returnees, and refer them for protective services.
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. With technical assistance from an international organization, the government established a specialized witness protection unit within the Attorney General’s office and co-chaired a two-day regional witness protection meeting to strengthen cooperation and partnership between the Ethiopian officials and their regional counterparts. According to some Supreme Court officials, children were able to testify against traffickers via video. The anti-trafficking law allowed foreign national victims to receive temporary resident permits or repatriation assistance on an as-needed basis. The government did not report information on whether any victims received deportation relief during the reporting period. The 2015 anti-trafficking proclamation extended protections to trafficking victims as 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. There were no reports that any trafficking victims had been summarily deported without proper screening; or detained, fined, jailed, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit in 2018. However, the government housed some victims at police stations while they were waiting to provide testimony in their respective trafficking cases. Given ad hoc implementation of formal identification and referral procedures, some trafficking victims may have remained unidentified within the law enforcement system.