The government slightly increased victim protection efforts. The government reported identifying 264 trafficking victims, compared with 329 in the previous reporting period. Of the 264 victims identified, traffickers exploited 63 in sex trafficking, 188 in labor trafficking, and 13 in unspecified forms of trafficking; 240 were adults (17 men and 223 women), and 24 were children (14 boys and 10 girls); all 264 were Ethiopian nationals. In addition to victims identified by the government, NGOs and international organizations reported identifying and assisting at least 1,074 potential victims, providing them with services, including medical care, reintegration assistance, education, and repatriation assistance for Ethiopian nationals exploited in domestic servitude abroad. The government, in partnership with an international organization, updated its SOPs for victim identification and finalized an updated NRM in November 2022 that provides robust guidelines for victim referrals to services, including a directory of service providers. The government made efforts to disseminate the new SOPs and NRM and provided regular trainings to front-line officials and NGO stakeholders on their use. The government took nascent steps to expand implementation of the SOPs and NRM to the regional states; however, their use outside of Addis Ababa remained limited. The government increased proactive screening of vulnerable populations for trafficking indicators, particularly among the large number of Ethiopian migrant workers returning from employment in Gulf states.
The government, in partnership with civil society organizations, reported providing at least 113 victims with various services, including medical care, psycho-social counseling, shelter, family reunification, legal aid, and economic assistance; this compared with 256 victims provided services in 2021. The government did not operate any shelters for trafficking victims and continued to rely on NGOs to provide shelter to trafficking victims. Despite reliance on civil society organizations to provide most victim services, the government’s provision of financial or in-kind support to such organizations remained minimal. An international organization continued to operate five migration response centers (MRCs) in Dire Dawa, Metema, Moyale, Semera, and Togochale to provide vulnerable migrants, including potential trafficking victims, with basic needs, temporary shelter, and family reunification support. The government supported the MRCs in various ways, including by donating land for infrastructure, providing rent-free usage of government facilities, participating in MRC management committees, and facilitating referral linkage with front-line agencies. The government reported providing services to 608 potential trafficking victims among 8,000 vulnerable migrants at the MRCs, compared with 199 victims in the previous reporting period. The government maintained operation of child protection units in Addis Ababa and several major cities. The units reportedly provided protection services to child trafficking victims and vulnerable children intercepted or identified en route from rural to urban areas. Protection services for male victims remained scarce, and observers reported the government’s overall victim assistance remained limited and inconsistent in quality, particularly outside of Addis Ababa. The 2020 anti-trafficking proclamation established a fund to support victim protection and care, which could receive funding through a government budget allocation; through fines imposed on, and the sale of, confiscated property from traffickers; and from foreign donors. In 2021, the government drafted regulations to initiate creation of the fund; the regulations were awaiting ministerial-level approval for the second consecutive reporting period.
To protect Ethiopian nationals exploited abroad, some Ethiopian diplomatic missions in Gulf states continued to provide temporary shelter and facilitate repatriation flights for victims. The government and civil society continued to report that Gulf states conducted mass deportations of Ethiopians – rather than coordinated repatriations – hindering the Ethiopian response system. The National Partnership Coalition (NPC), in partnership with other government agencies and civil society, established a special committee to provide protection services to and prevent trafficking among Ethiopian returnees, including potential trafficking victims. Officials at Bole International Airport and at land border crossings coordinated with an international organization to screen Ethiopians returning from abroad for trafficking indicators. Observers noted the time allotted for screening interviews – approximately five minutes – was insufficient to adequately identify potential victims, especially amidst the high number of returnees, which an international organization reported was more than 100,000 individuals in 2022. The government reported providing returnees, which likely included potential trafficking victims, short-term shelter, basic needs, consular services, medical care, psycho-social counseling, and family reintegration assistance. Community-level officials, in partnership with an international organization, provided economic and job assistance to returnees once they arrived back in their home communities. Observers reported that while protection services for returnees increased in Addis Ababa, protection services for Ethiopians returning directly to other cities, particularly Bahir Dar and Mekelle, remained limited.
The 2020 anti-trafficking proclamation provided protections to victims participating in investigations and prosecutions as outlined under the Witness and Whistleblowers Protection Proclamation (No. 699/2010), which included protection from prosecution for crimes solely committed as a direct result of being trafficked. The government, in partnership with an international organization, drafted an amendment to Proc. 699/2010 to reportedly increase protections for victims of crime, including trafficking, and ensure the protections were in line with international standards; the draft amendments were awaiting approval by the Council of Ministers at the end of the reporting period. The government maintained a witness protection directorate to provide assistance to victim-witnesses and, in partnership with an international organization, provided anti-trafficking trafficking to the unit. Officials maintained an MOU with NGOs to improve coordination between law enforcement agencies and service providers intended to ensure officials referred victims to appropriate care, including shelter, counseling, and legal assistance, throughout the course of legal proceedings. Courts allowed children to testify against traffickers via video or in child-friendly interviewing rooms. Despite these protections, observers reported, in some cases, victims chose not to testify due to fear of reprisal or lack of funding to travel to court. The government reported supporting eight victims voluntarily participating in criminal proceedings against traffickers at the federal level in Addis Ababa; the government reported most victims at the regional level, where reliance on victim testimony is greater, participated in criminal proceedings against traffickers. The anti-trafficking proclamation allowed courts to order convicted traffickers pay restitution; however, the government did not report awarding restitution during the reporting period. The law also allowed victims to file civil suits against traffickers for compensation for damages; however, the government did not report the number of such suits filed. Proclamation 1178/2020 entitled all victims to the same services and allowed foreign national victims to receive temporary residence permits or repatriation assistance on an as-needed basis. Due to disparate implementation of identification procedures, authorities may have detained or deported some unidentified trafficking victims.