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The Government of Ethiopia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, if any, on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Ethiopia was upgraded to Tier 2. These efforts included investigating officials allegedly complicit in potential trafficking crimes; updating the government’s SOPs for victim identification; finalizing a robust NRM, including a service provider directory to refer identified victims to protection services; and increasing efforts to provide protection services to and prevent trafficking among Ethiopian migrants returning from work in Gulf states. The government increased its use of the 2020 anti-trafficking proclamation and reported sentencing data for the first time in several years, which reflected adequate penalties for convicted traffickers involving significant prison terms. The government took steps to increase pre-departure and job skills trainings for Ethiopians utilizing formal recruitment processes to seek work abroad. The government launched its first trafficking-specific hotline and regularly sought input from survivors in developing new anti-trafficking activities. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. The government continued to disproportionately focus on transnational trafficking crimes and did not take adequate action to address internal trafficking crimes, including domestic servitude and child sex trafficking, despite the scale of the problem. Protection services for victims remained limited and inconsistent in quality, particularly outside of Addis Ababa; additionally, the government continued to rely on civil society organizations to provide most victim services, but it did not provide sufficient in-kind or financial support to these efforts. Despite reports of fraudulent labor recruiters regularly recruiting and exploiting Ethiopians seeking employment abroad, the government did not report efforts to hold fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable.

  • Expand anti-trafficking training to all levels of government, including regional officials outside of Addis Ababa, on implementation of the SOPs for victim identification and the NRM to refer all victims to appropriate care.
  • Continue to increase efforts to investigate and prosecute alleged traffickers, including for both transnational and internal trafficking crimes, and seek adequate penalties for convicted traffickers, which should involve significant prison terms.
  • Raise awareness, including at the community level, of formal recruitment processes for migrant work abroad.
  • Systematically and proactively identify trafficking victims by screening for trafficking indicators among vulnerable populations, including individuals in commercial sex, Ethiopian migrant workers returning from overseas, unaccompanied children, and foreign nationals such as Eritreans, Somalis, South Sudanese, and Cuban medical workers, and refer all trafficking victims to appropriate services.
  • Collaborate with NGOs and international organizations to increase the government’s capacity to provide short-term shelter, long-term housing, and protective services to all trafficking victims, including adult males and foreign nationals.
  • Consistently enforce strong regulations and oversight of labor recruitment agencies, including by eliminating recruitment fees charged to migrant workers, holding fraudulent labor recruiters criminally accountable, and training labor inspectors to report potential violations to the appropriate officials.
  • Increase protections for Ethiopian trafficking victims exploited abroad, including by providing pre-departure training to all migrant workers, training Ethiopian embassy staff to identify and assist victims abroad, establishing and implementing additional bilateral labor agreements (BLAs) with destination countries, and assigning labor attachés to Ethiopian embassies to monitor migrants’ working conditions abroad.
  • Continue to increase training for police, prosecutors, judges, immigration officials, and service providers to improve understanding of the differences between human trafficking and migrant smuggling.
  • Develop and implement a comprehensive and centralized database to accurately report the government’s anti-trafficking statistics and disaggregate data on trafficking crimes and migrant smuggling.

The government increased anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Proclamation 1178/2020, Proclamation to Provide for the Prevention and Suppression of Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Persons, as amended by Corrigendum 11/2013, effective as of December 2020, criminalized sex trafficking and labor trafficking. The law prescribed penalties of seven to 15 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 20,000 to 100,000 Ethiopian birr (Br) ($375 to $1,875) for labor trafficking and adult sex trafficking and 10 to 20 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 to 100,000 Br ($560 to $1,875) for child sex trafficking. These penalties were sufficiently stringent and, with regards to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape.

The government did not maintain a centralized law enforcement data collection system on trafficking crimes, hindering its ability to disaggregate national human trafficking statistics, and likely resulted in underreported anti-trafficking prosecution statistics. In 2022, the government provided data from the federal level and 10 regions, compared with providing data from the federal level and six regions in 2021. The government reported investigating 498 trafficking cases – two for sex trafficking, 69 for labor trafficking, and 427 for unspecified forms of trafficking – in 2022, compared with 495 investigations in 2021. Of these 498 investigations, officials investigated 38 at the federal level and 460 at the regional level, compared with 127 at the federal level and 368 at the regional level in 2021. The government reported prosecuting at least 608 individuals in 497 cases – one for sex trafficking, 16 for labor trafficking, and 591 for unspecified forms of trafficking – under the anti-trafficking proclamation; however, some data likely fell outside of the reporting period. This compared with 267 prosecutions under the anti-trafficking proclamation and 120 under immigration provisions of the criminal code in 2021. Of the at least 608 individuals prosecuted, 41 occurred at the federal level and 567 occurred at the regional level, compared with 98 prosecutions at the federal level and 289 at the regional level in 2021. Courts convicted at least 225 traffickers – at least one for sex trafficking, at least two for labor trafficking, and 222 for unspecified forms of trafficking – under the anti-trafficking proclamation in 2022, compared with 190 convictions under the anti-trafficking proclamation and 105 under immigration provisions of the criminal code in 2021. Courts did not provide sentencing data for all convictions but reported issuing sentences ranging from three to 18 years’ imprisonment in addition to fines; the government did not report sentencing data in 2021. Courts acquitted at least 36 suspected traffickers for unspecified reasons. As reported in prior years, officials’ propensity to conflate human trafficking and migrant smuggling, particularly at the regional and local levels, made it probable some reported cases involved individuals seeking to cross international borders via irregular migration and other crimes not involving exploitation through labor trafficking or sex trafficking. Additionally, observers reported the government continued to disproportionately focus law enforcement efforts on transnational trafficking crimes and did not allocate adequate resources or attention to trafficking crimes within the country’s borders, including domestic servitude and child sex trafficking.

Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action. Corruption among police and judicial officials, especially the solicitation of bribes, remained a significant concern. In 2022, the government investigated two officials – one police officer in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region and one immigration official employed at Bole International Airport – for potential trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes. Between the beginning of the conflict in northern Ethiopia in November 2020 and the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement (COHA) between the government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in November 2022, reports indicated armed actors – including Eritrean forces, regional forces, the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF), and the TPLF – were reportedly responsible for committing human rights abuses and gender-based violence (GBV) in Tigray and other northern regions, including potential trafficking crimes. Observers reported unspecified military personnel and other officials exploited women in sex trafficking through coercion for basic commodities and humanitarian assistance. Monitors reported a dramatic decrease in human rights abuses following the signing of the COHA.

The Federal Police Commission (FPC) maintained responsibility to investigate and prosecute human trafficking crimes. In practice, FPC investigated cases in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, cases of transnational trafficking, and cases involving cross-regional exploitation in Ethiopia; the federal government continued to delegate regional law enforcement units to investigate internal trafficking cases in local jurisdictions. The FPC maintained a Migration and Human Trafficking Crime Team with nine police officers dedicated to investigating human trafficking crimes. The Ministry of Justice established a specialized prosecution unit focused on human trafficking and migrant smuggling crimes, which included six prosecutors with training on the 2020 anti-trafficking law. The specialized investigators and prosecutors regularly coordinated on trafficking cases and training efforts, including on victim-centered investigations, child-friendly interviewing techniques, and strong evidence gathering. The government, in partnership with civil society organizations, also provided regular trainings to federal and regional government officials, police, prosecutors, judges, and immigration officers, on the distinction between human trafficking and migrant smuggling, anti-trafficking laws, trafficking investigation SOPs, digital investigation techniques, victim identification, and international cooperation on investigations. The government, in partnership with an international organization, drafted SOPs for the prosecution of human trafficking and migrant smuggling cases to complement the 2020 anti-trafficking proclamation and SOPs on trafficking investigations established in the previous reporting period. The government reported cooperating with INTERPOL and foreign governments, including Djibouti, Italy, Kenya, the Netherlands, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on potential trafficking investigations.

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.

The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. The senior-level National Council, chaired by the deputy prime minister, maintained responsibility for the creation of policies and strategies for the prevention of migrant smuggling and human trafficking. The working-level NPC, which was led by the Ministry of Justice and composed of members from relevant government ministries, religious institutions, civil society organizations, and media, continued to serve as the government’s primary coordinating body for issues related to human trafficking and migrant smuggling. The NPC maintained six working groups, which met regularly throughout the year, related to the following topics: awareness raising and overseas employment, crime prevention and law enforcement, victim protection, data collection, diaspora engagement, and research. The NPC implemented a 2021-2025 NAP, which included activities related to the prevention of human trafficking; while the NAP addressed all forms of trafficking, the focus of activities was primarily on Ethiopian overseas workers. During the 2022-2023 fiscal year, the federal government allocated 1.36 billion Br ($25.6 million) for anti-trafficking and migrant smuggling efforts. Regional governments also allocated funds for anti-trafficking efforts but did not report specific funding amounts. The government sought input from survivors in developing new anti-trafficking laws, policies, and programs and encouraged survivors’ participation in awareness raising activities. The government initiated a research study to analyze trafficking trends and risks within Ethiopia, particularly focused on IDPs. The government, both independently and in partnership with international organizations and foreign donors, conducted various awareness campaigns at the federal and regional levels on trafficking indicators and reporting mechanisms, primarily targeted toward schools, rural communities, religious institutions, and media. The government, in partnership with an international organization, established a toll-free, 24/7 trafficking-specific hotline to report trafficking crimes and refer victims to services. The federal and regional police maintained additional hotlines to report crimes, including human trafficking, to law enforcement. The government reported receiving 153 calls related to human trafficking through the various hotlines, which resulted in criminal investigation or victim identification.

The Ministry of Labor and Skills (MOLS) continued to regulate labor migration and other labor-related matters, including labor trafficking. Proclamation No. 1246/2021 Ethiopian’s Overseas Employment (Amendment) continued to require recruitment agencies to be registered and licensed, and the government required recruitment agencies to ensure migrant workers received training on worker rights and destination countries’ laws prior to departure. The government did not report efforts to establish a legally required employment board to oversee implementation of the employment proclamation, including by facilitating BLAs protecting migrant workers abroad, and raising awareness of overseas employment processes and risks. The employment proclamation continued to require employment agencies to deposit 1 million Br ($18,750) in a bank as insurance, which officials would use to assist and repatriate trafficking victims; however, the government did not consistently enforce this requirement. The government continued to allow employment agencies to charge migrant workers, not including those employed in domestic work, to pay recruitment fees the amount of one month’s salary over four payment periods. The government did not report efforts to hold fraudulent or unregistered labor recruiters criminally accountable.

The MOLS provided pre-departure training for Ethiopians seeking work abroad, typically between 50-80 participants per day, including on employment contracts, worker rights, and resources for assistance. The Technical and Vocational Education and Training Agency implemented government-funded vocational training programs, ranging from 45 days to six months, which included training on job skills, basic foreign languages, and cultural considerations of destination countries. The government maintained BLAs with Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to commit to ethical recruitment, legal remedies against those who violated the law, and equal protection of Ethiopian workers, to include equal wages for equal work and reasonable working hours. The government continued to negotiate BLAs with the Governments of Bahrain, Kuwait, and Lebanon. Despite the protection and prevention efforts provided within the formal recruitment process prior to departure, the government did not employ labor attachés at Ethiopian diplomatic missions, hindering the government’s overall ability to monitor migrant worker conditions abroad.

Labor inspectors overseeing working conditions in the country received anti-trafficking training and reported potential trafficking crimes to law enforcement following routine inspections of worksites; however, labor inspectors continued to focus on child labor violations. The lack of a uniform national identity card continued to impede implementation of the 2012 law requiring registration of all births nationwide and allowed for the continuous issuance of district-level identity cards, which were subject to fraudulent production to exploit potential trafficking victims, including children. To address this continued concern, in November 2022 the government began issuing birth certificates free of charge in public and private health facilities in Addis Ababa. The government did not report providing anti-trafficking training to its troops prior to their deployment as peacekeepers. Although not explicitly reported as human trafficking, investigation and accountability actions remained pending for one allegation of sexual exploitation with trafficking indicators against one Ethiopian peacekeeper serving in the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia in 2018. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts.

As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Ethiopia, and traffickers exploit victims from Ethiopia abroad. Traffickers exploit women and girls from Ethiopia in domestic servitude and sex trafficking throughout the country and boys and men in labor trafficking in traditional weaving, construction, agriculture, forced begging, and street vending. Brothel owners exploit girls in sex trafficking in Addis Ababa’s central market. Labor recruiters frequently target young people from Ethiopia’s vast rural areas with false promises of a better life in urban areas; in some cases, traffickers replicate legitimate app-based recruitment tools to fraudulently recruit vulnerable populations and exploit them in forced labor. As of February 2023, an international organization reported there were more than 2.7 million IDPs in Ethiopia as a result of internal conflict and climate change, including drought and flooding. IDPs and individuals in resettlement camps are increasingly vulnerable to trafficking due to a lack of access to justice, education, and economic opportunity.

Between the beginning of the conflict in northern Ethiopia in November 2020 and the signing of the COHA between the government and the TPLF in November 2022, almost 60,000 Ethiopians sought asylum in Sudan and other neighboring countries, where protection services are limited; this population is increasingly vulnerable to trafficking as displacement, food insecurity, and lack of economic opportunity persists. Reports indicate armed actors, including Eritrean forces, regional Ethiopian forces, the ENDF, and the TPLF, committed human rights abuses and GBV against women and girls in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, including potential trafficking crimes. Observers report unspecified military personnel and other officials forced women to have sex in exchange for basic commodities and humanitarian assistance. International organizations report Eritrean forces forcibly recruited and used children in military combat in Ethiopia. Unaccompanied children in conflict areas throughout the country are vulnerable to unlawful recruitment or use by armed groups.

Trusted community members, known as manamasas, recruit and groom vulnerable youth on behalf of local and international human trafficking syndicates by exaggerating the advantages of working abroad. Scarce economic opportunities and poverty, coupled with familial encouragement, compel tens of thousands of Ethiopians, including a substantial percentage of unmarried individuals younger than age 30, to transit out of Ethiopia via three main routes, where they are vulnerable to trafficking. Undocumented economic migrants primarily take the eastern route, via Djibouti or Somalia, to Yemen and onward to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. The southern route often involves individuals transiting through Kenya and onward to South Africa in hopes of finding more economic opportunities. The northwestern route, the least common, has traditionally been taken by men through Sudan to Libya and onward to Europe; however, observers report women using this route to reach Khartoum, where they apply for and receive visas to Lebanon. Observers have not been able to discern how these women acquire visas or if the process is legitimate. Across all three of these major migration routes, traffickers exploit Ethiopian migrants in sex and labor trafficking in transit countries and in their intended destinations. Families often finance irregular migration, and parents may force or coerce their children to go abroad. Most traffickers are small local operators, often from the victims’ own communities, but there are also well-structured, hierarchical, organized crime groups that facilitate irregular migration flows and likely exploit individuals in labor or sex trafficking. More than 100,000 Ethiopians returned from abroad in 2022, many of whom likely faced increased trafficking vulnerabilities in their destination country, along their route, and once back in Ethiopia.

Traffickers exploit Ethiopians in sex and labor trafficking in other African countries, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Saudi Arabia remains the primary destination for economic migrants, representing 80-90 percent of Ethiopian labor migration; observers report approximately 400,000-500,000 Ethiopians reside there without valid travel documentation. Traffickers frequently exploit this vulnerable population in sex or labor trafficking. Ethiopians traveling to the Middle East through licensed Ethiopian employment agencies are also susceptible to trafficking by employers or illegal employment agencies in the destination country. The visa sponsorship system – common in Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – binds domestic workers to one employer and prevents their freedom of movement. Some families in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern countries exploit Ethiopian women in domestic servitude, subjecting them to severe physical and emotional abuse. Ethiopian women who migrate for work or flee abusive employers in the Middle East are vulnerable to further exploitation. Ethiopians abroad – especially in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia – often face stigmatization and abuse, leading to loss of employment and potential deportation; this population remains vulnerable to trafficking. In Lebanon, employers forcibly removed Ethiopian domestic workers from their homes during the pandemic, leaving them trapped in the country; unable to find new work or a safe way home; these individuals are vulnerable to trafficking. Traffickers exploit Ethiopian women and children in forced begging, sometimes via organized begging rings, in Saudi Arabia. Thousands of Ethiopians – including domestic workers and migrant laborers who lost their employment due to the pandemic, and migrants pushed out by violence in Yemen – face increasing vulnerabilities to trafficking after being placed in abusive detention centers in southern Saudi Arabia. Traffickers exploit Ethiopian girls in domestic servitude and sex trafficking, sometimes using substances as a means of control, in neighboring African countries, particularly Djibouti and Sudan. Traffickers exploit Ethiopian boys in labor trafficking in forced begging, domestic servitude, and shopkeeping in Djibouti. Traffickers exploit Ethiopian women in forced labor in the hotel industry in Romania.

As of April 2023, Ethiopia hosts more than 924,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, primarily from South Sudan, Somalia, and Eritrea. Refugees without education and economic opportunity and those further displaced by conflict are vulnerable to trafficking. Cuban medical professionals working in Ethiopia may have been forced to work by the Cuban government.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future