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U.S. issued a comprehensive report on Ethiopia and Eritrea

By Tajuddin
Jan 2nd, 2015
Ethiopia, 85 million people, almost half of its population is under 14 years of age. In rural and urban areas, children often begin working at 5 years

Ethiopia, 85 million people, almost half of its population is under 14 years of age. In rural and urban areas, children often begin working at 5 years

Washington ( DIPLOMAT.SO) – U.S. Department of State , OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS,2014 Trafficking in Persons Report.


Ethiopia is a source and, to a lesser extent, destination and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Girls from Ethiopia’s rural areas are exploited in domestic servitude and, less frequently, prostitution within the country, while boys are subjected to forced labor in traditional weaving, herding, guarding, and street vending. The central market in Addis Ababa is home to the largest collection of brothels in Africa, with girls as young as 8-years-old in prostitution in these establishments. Ethiopian girls are forced into domestic servitude and prostitution outside of Ethiopia, primarily in Djibouti, South Sudan, and in the Middle East. Ethiopian boys are subjected to forced labor in Djibouti as shop assistants, errand boys, domestic workers, thieves, and street beggars. Young people from Ethiopia’s vast rural areas are aggressively recruited with promises of a better life and are likely targeted because of the demand for cheap domestic labor in the Middle East.

Many young Ethiopians transit through Djibouti, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, or Yemen as they emigrate seeking work in the Middle East; some become stranded and exploited in these transit countries, and are subjected to detention, extortion, and severe abuses—some of which include forced labor and sex trafficking—while en route to their final destinations. Young women are subjected to domestic servitude throughout the Middle East, as well as in Sudan and South Sudan. Many Ethiopian women working in domestic service in the Middle East face severe abuses, including physical and sexual assault, denial of salary, sleep deprivation, withholding of passports, confinement, and even murder. Ethiopian women are sometimes exploited in the sex trade after migrating for labor purposes—particularly in brothels, mining camps, and near oil fields in Sudan and South Sudan—or after fleeing abusive employers in the Middle East. Low-skilled Ethiopian men and boys migrate to Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, and other African nations, where some are subjected to forced labor. In October 2013, the Ethiopian government banned overseas labor recruitment. Preceding the ban, Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MOLSA) officials reported that up to 1,500 Ethiopians departed daily as part of the legal migration process. Officials estimated this likely represented only 30 to 40 percent of those migrating for work; the remaining 60 to 70 percent were smuggled with the facilitation of illegal brokers. Brokers serve as the primary recruiters in rural areas. Over 400 employment agencies were licensed to recruit Ethiopians for work abroad; however, government officials acknowledged many to be involved in both legal and illegal recruitment, leading to the government’s ban on labor export. Following the ban, irregular labor migration through Sudan is believed to have increased. Eritreans residing in Ethiopia-based refugee camps, some of whom voluntarily migrate out of the camps, and others who are lured or abducted from the camps, face situations of human trafficking in Sudan and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Since November 2013, the Saudi Arabian government has deported over 163,000 Ethiopians, including over 94,000 men working mostly in the construction sector and over 8,000 children working in cattle herding and domestic service; international organizations and Ethiopian officials believe thousands were likely trafficking victims. Many migrants reported not having repaid debts to those who smuggled them to Saudi Arabia, rendering some of them at risk for re-trafficking.

The Government of Ethiopia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The Federal High Court convicted 106 traffickers and worked with international partners to shelter and provide emergency care to trafficking victims. In 2013, following an influx of trafficking victims returning to Ethiopia, the government recognized problems with its oversight of Ethiopian-based employment agencies, which were failing to protect workers sent overseas. In response, the government temporarily banned labor recruitment and began to revise the relevant employment proclamation to ensure improved oversight of these agencies and better protection of its citizens while working abroad. The government facilitated the return of thousands of Ethiopians, including many likely trafficking victims, deported from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere during the reporting period, and coordinated with NGOs and international organizations to provide services to the returning migrants. The government relied on NGOs to provide direct assistance to both internal and transnational trafficking victims and did not provide financial or in-kind support to such organizations. The government did not deploy labor attachés or improve the availability of protective services offered by its overseas diplomatic missions. The absence of government-organized trainings in 2013 was a concern. The government also did not effectively address child prostitution and other forms of internal trafficking through law enforcement, protection, or prevention efforts. It did not report on the number of victims it identified in 2013.

Recommendations for Ethiopia:

Complete amendments to the employment exchange proclamation to ensure penalization of illegal recruitment and improved oversight of overseas recruitment agencies; strengthen criminal code penalties for sex trafficking and amend criminal code Articles 597 and 635 to include a clear definition of human trafficking that includes the trafficking of male victims and enhanced penalties that are commensurate with other serious crimes; enhance judicial understanding of trafficking and improve the investigative capacity of police throughout the country to allow for more prosecutions of internal child trafficking offenses; increase the use of Articles 596, 597, and 635 to prosecute cases of labor and sex trafficking; improve screening procedures in the distribution of national identification cards and passports to ensure children are not fraudulently acquiring these; allocate appropriate funding for the deployment of labor attachés to overseas diplomatic missions; institute regular trafficking awareness training for diplomats posted abroad, as well as labor officials who validate employment contracts or regulate employment agencies, to ensure the protection of Ethiopians seeking work or employed overseas; incorporate information on human trafficking and labor rights in Middle Eastern and other countries into pre-departure training provided to migrant workers; engage Middle Eastern governments on improving protections for Ethiopian workers; partner with local NGOs to increase the level of services available to trafficking victims returning from overseas, including allocating funding to enable the continuous operation of either a government or NGO-run shelter; improve the productivity of the national anti-trafficking taskforce; and launch a national anti-trafficking awareness campaign at the local and regional levels.


The Government of Ethiopia maintained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the reporting period, but its efforts continued to focus wholly on transnational trafficking, with little evidence that the government investigated or prosecuted sex trafficking or internal labor trafficking cases. Ethiopia prohibits sex and labor trafficking through criminal code Articles 596 (Enslavement), 597 (Trafficking in Women and Children), 635 (Traffic in Women and Minors), and 636 (Aggravation to the Crime). Article 635, which prohibits sex trafficking, prescribes punishments not exceeding five years’ imprisonment, penalties which are sufficiently stringent, though not commensurate with penalties prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Articles 596 and 597 outlaw slavery and labor trafficking and prescribe punishments of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, penalties which are sufficiently stringent. Articles 597 and 635, however, lack a clear definition of human trafficking, do not include coverage for crimes committed against adult male victims, and have rarely been used to prosecute trafficking offenses. Instead, Articles 598 (Unlawful Sending of Ethiopians to Work Abroad) and 571 (Endangering the Life of Another) are regularly used to prosecute cases of transnational labor trafficking. The absence of a clear legal definition of human trafficking in law impeded the Ethiopian Federal Police’s (EFP) and Ministry of Justice’s ability to investigate and prosecute trafficking cases effectively. Officials began drafting amendments to the Employment Exchange Services Proclamation No. 632/2009, which governs the work of approximately 400 licensed labor recruitment agencies; planned amendments will prohibit illegal recruitment and improve oversight of recruitment agencies.

During the reporting period, the EFP’s Human Trafficking and Narcotics Section, located within the Organized Crime Investigation Unit, investigated 135 suspected trafficking cases—compared to 133 cases in the previous reporting period. The federal government reported prosecuting 137 cases involving an unknown number of defendants relating to transnational labor trafficking under Article 598; of these cases, the Federal High Court convicted 106 labor traffickers—compared to 100 labor traffickers convicted in the previous reporting period. Officials indicated that these prosecutions included cases against private employment agencies and brokers, but did not provide details on these cases or the average length of applied sentences. Between June and July 2013, courts in the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR) reportedly heard 267 cases involving illegal smugglers and brokers. In addition, in Gamo Gofa, a zone within SNNPR, the zonal court convicted six traffickers in 2013—the first convictions in that area’s history. The EFP investigated allegations of complicity in trafficking-related crimes involving staff at several foreign diplomatic missions in Addis Ababa; the EFP arrested several staff at these missions.

In 2013, the government did not initiate any sex trafficking prosecutions, including for child prostitution. It also did not demonstrate adequate efforts to investigate and prosecute internal trafficking crimes or support and empower regional authorities to effectively do so. Regional law enforcement entities throughout the country continued to exhibit an inability to distinguish human trafficking from human smuggling and lacked capacity to properly investigate and document cases, as well as to collect and organize relevant data. In addition, the government remained limited in its ability to conduct international investigations. The government did not provide or fund trafficking-specific trainings for law enforcement officials, though police and other officials received training from international organizations with governmental support during the year. Seventy-seven judges also received training on both child labor and human trafficking. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of public officials allegedly complicit in human trafficking or trafficking-related offenses. For example, reports suggest local kabele or district level officials accepted bribes to change the ages on district-issued identification cards, enabling children to receive passports without parental consent; passport issuance authorities did not question the validity of such identification documents or the ages of applicants.


The government did not provide adequate assistance to trafficking victims—both those exploited internally or after migrating overseas—relying almost exclusively on international organizations and NGOs to provide services to victims without providing funding to these organizations. However, following the Saudi Arabian government’s closure of its border and massive deportation of migrant workers, officials worked quickly and collaboratively with international organizations and NGOs to repatriate and accommodate over 163,000 Ethiopian returnees from Saudi Arabia and several hundred from Yemen. The government did not report the number of victims it identified and assisted during the year. It remained without standard procedures for front-line responders to guide their identification of trafficking victims and their referral to care. During the reporting period, following the return of Ethiopians exploited overseas, the Bole International Airport Authority and immigration officials in Addis Ababa referred an unknown number of female victims to eleven local NGOs that provided care specific to trafficking victims. Typically such referrals were made only at the behest of self-identified victims of trafficking. One organization assisted 70 trafficking victims during the year—often from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Yemen, and Lebanon—providing shelter, food, clothing, medical and psychological treatment without government support. The government’s reliance on NGOs to provide direct assistance to most trafficking victims, while not providing financial or in-kind support to such NGOs, resulted in unpredictable availability of adequate care; many facilities lacked sustainability as they depended on project-based funding for continued operation. Despite its reliance on NGOs to provide victims care, the government at times created challenges for these organizations as a result of its 2009 Charities and Societies Proclamation. This proclamation prohibits organizations that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from foreign sources from engaging in activities that promote—among other things—human rights, the rights of children and persons with disabilities, and justice. These restrictions had a negative impact on the ability of some NGOs to adequately provide a full range of protective services, including assistance to victims in filing cases against their traffickers with authorities and conducting family tracing.

The government operated child protection units in the 10 sub-cities of Addis Ababa and six major cities, including Dire Dawa, Adama, Sodo, Arba Minch, Debre Zeit, and Jimma; staff at the units were trained in assisting the needs of vulnerable children, including potential trafficking victims. Healthcare and other social services were generally provided to victims of trafficking by government-operated hospitals in the same manner as they were provided to other victims of abuse. The government continued to jointly operate an emergency response center in the Afar Region jointly with the IOM, at which police and local health professionals provided medical and nutritional care, temporary shelter, transport to home areas, and counseling to migrants in distress, including trafficking victims. While officials reportedly encouraged victims to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, there were no protective mechanisms in place to support their active role in these processes. For example, Ethiopian law does not prevent the deportation of foreign victims to countries where they might face hardship or retribution. There were no reports of trafficking victims being detained, jailed, or prosecuted in 2013. The limited nature of consular services provided to Ethiopian workers abroad continued to be a weakness in government efforts. Although Employment Exchange Services Proclamation No. 632/2009 requires licensed employment agencies to place funds in escrow to provide assistance in the event a worker’s contract is broken, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has never used these deposits to pay for victims’ transportation back to Ethiopia. Nonetheless, in one case, a young woman in domestic servitude was pushed off the fifth story of a building by her employer in Beirut; once the victim was out of the hospital, the Ethiopian Embassy assisted in her repatriation, and upon her arrival, officials referred her to an NGO for assistance.

While officials worked to facilitate the return of stranded migrants and detainees, many of whom are believed to be trafficking victims, its focus was solely emergency assistance, with minimal direct provision of or support for longer-term protective services necessary for adequate care of trafficking victims. In April 2013, through a bilateral agreement with Yemeni officials, the Ethiopian government facilitated the return of 618 Ethiopian migrants stranded in Yemen after having failed to cross the Saudi Arabian border or been deported from Saudi Arabia. The government did not coordinate humanitarian assistance for these returnees upon their arrival in Addis Ababa. IOM coordinated subsequent returns, providing shelter at the IOM transit center in Addis Ababa, where returnees received medical care and psycho-social support while UNICEF conducted family tracing. The government did not provide financial or in-kind support to these IOM-led operations.

Beginning in November 2013, the Saudi Arabian government began massive deportation of foreign workers, who lacked proper visas or employment papers. The Ethiopian government led the repatriation and closely collaborated with IOM as part of an emergency response to the deportation of 163,000 Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia—many of whom were likely trafficking victims. Ethiopian diplomats worked to identify Ethiopian detainees stuck in 64 Saudi detention camps and various ministries met twice a week in an effort to return the migrants as rapidly as possible because of inhumane conditions within Saudi deportation camps. With a peak of 7,000 returning each day, the government partnered with IOM to provide food, emergency shelter, and medical care, and facilitate the deportees’ return to their home areas. Those requiring overnight stays in Addis Ababa were accommodated in IOM’s transit center and three transit facilities set up by the government; two of these were on government training campuses and one was rented at the government’s expense. The Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Section of the Ministry of Agriculture set up incident command centers at transit centers where representatives from all ministries addressed issues among returnees. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth Affairs provided blankets, food, and the approximate equivalent of $12,000 to a local NGO that assisted 87 severely traumatized trafficking victims identified among this population—believed to be only a mere fraction of the total number of victims needing comprehensive counseling and reintegration support among these deportees. Regional governments established committees to provide returnees basic assistance and planned to support their reintegration via the establishment of cooperatives and small businesses. For example, in Addis Ababa, 3,000 returnees received psychological support and 1,743 graduated from technical skills training. While the government contributed the equivalent of approximately $2.5 million towards repatriation costs, it requested reimbursement from IOM via donors for the equivalent of approximately $27,000 worth of food.


The government made moderate efforts to prevent human trafficking. It coordinated both regional and national awareness raising campaigns. In 2013, nationally-owned media companies aired a drama series which portrayed the dangers of being trafficked. The Women’s Development Army, a government run program, raised awareness of the dangers of sending children to urban areas alone and of the potential for abuse when illegal brokers facilitate migration. Working-level officials from federal ministries and agencies met weekly as part of the technical working group on trafficking, led by MOLSA. The inter-ministerial taskforce on trafficking met quarterly and was extensively involved in responding to the deportation of Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia.

Officials acknowledged that licensed employment agencies were involved in facilitating both legal and illegal labor migration and, as a result, enacted a temporary ban on the legal emigration of low-skilled laborers in October 2013. The ban is set to remain in place until draft amendments to the employment exchange proclamation are enacted to allow for greater oversight of private employment agencies, to mandate the placement of labor attachés in Ethiopian embassies, and to establish an independent agency to identify and train migrant workers. The government monitored the activities of labor recruitment agencies and closed an unknown number of agencies that were identified as having sent workers into dangerous conditions. Officials acknowledged that the ban may encourage illegal migration; as a result, the EFP mobilized additional resources to monitor Ethiopia’s borders. In February 2014, the EFP intercepted 101 Ethiopians led by an illegal broker at the border with Sudan. In early November 2013, the government sent a delegation of officials to Saudi Arabia to visit various camps where Ethiopians were being held. Due to the poor conditions in the camps and numerous reports of abuse, the Ethiopian government acted to remove all of their citizens swiftly. During the year, a planned government-funded, six-week, pre-departure training for migrant workers was suspended due to lack of funding. Labor migration agreements negotiated in the previous reporting period with Jordan, Kuwait, and Qatar remained in place; the government negotiated new agreements in 2013 with the Governments of Djibouti, Sudan, the UAE, and Kenya. However, these agreements did not explicitly contain provisions to protect workers—such as by outlining mandatory rest periods, including grounds for filing grievances, and prohibiting recruitment fees.

In 2013, the government established the Office of Vital Records to implement a June 2012 law requiring registration of all births nationwide; however, the lack of a uniform national identification card continued to impede implementation of the law and allowed for the continued issuance of district-level identification cards that were subject to fraud. MOLSA’s inspection unit decreased in size during the reporting period from 380 to 291 inspectors as a result of high turnover rates and limited resources. In 2013, the government’s list of Activities Prohibited for Young Workers became law. MOLSA inspectors were not trained to use punitive measures upon identifying labor violations, and expressed concern that such efforts would deter foreign investment. The government provided Ethiopian troops with anti-trafficking training prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, though such training was conducted by a foreign donor.

Eritrea is running a forced labor program that is spawning human rights violations

Eritrea is running a forced labor program that is spawning human rights violations


Eritrea is a source country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor domestically, and to a lesser extent, forced prostitution and labor abroad. Tens of thousands of persons continue to flee the country, many escaping the government’s mandatory national service program. Under the Proclamation of National Service (No. 82/1995), persons aged 18 to 50 years must perform national service. For persons aged 18 to 40 years, this consists of six months of military training and 12 months of service in a government-run work unit, including the Eritrean Defense Forces, for a total of 18 months; persons over 40 are considered to be on reserve status if they have performed active duty service. The emergency situation declared in 1998 as a result of a border war with Ethiopia remained in effect during the year. Despite the 18-month limit on active duty national service under the 1995 proclamation, many persons are not demobilized from government work units as scheduled after their mandatory periods of service ended, and some are forced to serve indefinitely in the military under threats of detention, torture, or punishment of their families. Persons performing national service are prohibited from resigning from their jobs or taking new employment, generally receive no promotions or salary increases, and often cannot leave the country legally because they are denied passports or exit visas. Those performing national service in the Eritrean military carry out standard patrols and border-monitoring, in addition to public works projects such as agricultural terracing, road maintenance, and laying power lines. Working conditions are often harsh and sometimes involve physical abuse. In the past, there were reports that some Eritrean conscripts were forced to build private homes for army officers, perform agricultural labor on farms owned by the ruling party, or work in privately-owned mines, functions that fall outside the scope of the proclamation.

All 12th-grade students, including some younger than 18, are required to complete their final year of education at the Sawa military and educational camp; those who refuse to attend cannot receive high school graduation certificates, go on to higher education, or be offered some types of jobs. The first six months consist of military training prior to military service. Though the government made an effort to ensure that no persons under 18 engaged in military training at Sawa, it was difficult to determine whether all those performing the military training component had reached 18 years of age. The media reported that male and female recruits at the Sawa military training camp were beaten, and female recruits reported being sexually abused and raped; however, the number of claims of abuse reportedly declined in the last year as parents put pressure on school administrators to correct abusive practices. In 2012, the government instituted a compulsory citizen militia, requiring adults not already in the military or being trained at Sawa, including many who had been demobilized or exempted from military service in the past, to carry firearms and attend military training. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Education continued Mahtot, a national service program in which secondary-school children are assigned to work in public works projects including anti-litter campaigns and building school furniture. Eritrean children work in various economic sectors, including domestic service, street vending, small-scale manufacturing, garages, bicycle repair shops, tea and coffee shops, metal workshops, and agriculture; some of these children may be subjected to forced labor, including forced begging. Eritrean women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking within the country.

Eritreans fleeing national service, persecution, or seeking economic opportunities abroad primarily migrate to Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti, and Yemen; in 2013, new migration routes extended from Sudan to Libya and from Libya to Europe. The government’s strict exit control procedures and limited issuance of passports and exit visas effectively oblige those who wished to travel abroad to do so clandestinely, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. As of December 2013, Sudan hosted an estimated 114,900 Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers, with 400-600 Eritreans arriving to Sudan per month. Eritreans accounted for 78,974 of Ethiopia’s registered asylum-seeker population; from October to December 2013, 3,496 new Eritrean asylum-seekers registered in Ethiopia.

Smaller numbers of Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers were registered in Uganda, Yemen, and Djibouti in the reporting period. Some fleeing Eritreans face being shot and killed by Eritrean or Egyptian authorities or are forcibly repatriated to Eritrea, where they are sometimes detained without charge by the Eritrean government, or recalled into national service. Adolescent children who attempt to leave Eritrea are sometimes detained or forced to undergo military training despite being younger than the minimum service age of 18. Some Eritreans become victims of forced labor, primarily domestic servitude, in Sudan, Egypt, Israel, Yemen, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, or other Gulf countries. Eritrean women and girls are sometimes recruited to travel to Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states for domestic work with employment contracts that provide them with visas and work permits but are forced to engage in prostitution after they arrive. Smaller numbers of Eritrean women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking in South Sudan, Sudan, Israel, and Gulf countries; some Eritrean men are reportedly vulnerable to sex trafficking in Israel. International criminal groups seek out and—more frequently over the last couple of years—kidnap vulnerable Eritreans inside and outside of refugee camps, particularly in Sudan, and transport them to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In the Sinai, migrants and refugees are subjected to severe abuses, including human trafficking, at the hands of criminal groups. Abuse often consists of being forced to call family and friends abroad to pay ransom for release; some migrants and refugees report being forced to work as cleaners or on construction sites during their captivity. Victims of these criminal groups also report being chained together, whipped and beaten regularly, deprived of food, and repeatedly raped.

The Government of Eritrea does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. The government did not report data regarding efforts to combat human trafficking, as distinct from human smuggling. The government continued to subject its citizens to forced labor of a non-military nature in its compulsory national service, often for periods of indefinite duration, and in its citizen militia, whose members were also sometimes obliged to carry out public works such as tree-planting and dam- building. The government failed to identify and adequately protect victims of forced labor and sex trafficking, and it continued to arrest and detain unidentified victims for acts committed as a direct result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as immigration and prostitution violations. Although the government continued to warn its citizens of the dangers of trafficking, authorities largely lacked understanding of the crime, conflating it with all forms of transnational migration. The government took no effective measures to stem the exodus of thousands of Eritreans fleeing the country every month to seek economic opportunities abroad via clandestine migration that increased their vulnerability to forced labor and sex trafficking abroad.

Recommendations for Eritrea:

Develop and enforce an anti-trafficking statute that prohibits all forms of trafficking, including sex trafficking and forced labor, differentiating between illegal migration and human trafficking; investigate allegations of conscripts being forced to perform duties beyond the scope of the national service program and prosecute and punish, as appropriate, those who subjected recruits to exploitative labor; enforce existing limits on the length of national service to 18 months and cease the use of threats and physical punishment for non-compliance; extend existing labor protections to persons performing national service and other mandatory citizen duties; ensure that children under 18 sent to Sawa, the military school, do not participate in activities that amount to military service and that children under 18 are not forced to perform work of a non-military nature; ensure that victims are not punished for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to human trafficking, such as prostitution violations and fleeing government-sponsored forced labor; cooperate with UN agencies to combat trafficking and allow international NGOs to operate in the country, including those helping to combat trafficking and identifying and protecting victims; institute trafficking awareness training for diplomats posted overseas; with assistance from international organizations, provide training to all levels of government, particularly law enforcement officials, on identifying and responding to trafficking crimes; in partnership with NGOs or religious entities, ensure the provision of short-term protective services to child trafficking victims; conduct campaigns to increase the general public’s awareness of human trafficking at the local, regional, and national levels; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.


The government did not make transparent efforts to investigate or prosecute trafficking offenders, which it did not identify as distinct from human smuggling offenders. Article 605 of the Eritrean Transitional Criminal Code prohibits trafficking in women and young persons for sexual exploitation, which is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment or from three to 10 years’ imprisonment if aggravating circumstances are present. These penalties are sufficiently stringent, but not commensurate with punishments prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Article 565 prohibits enslavement and prescribes punishment of five to 20 years’ imprisonment, penalties which are sufficiently stringent. Forced labor and slavery are prohibited except where authorized by law under Article 16 of the ratified, but suspended, Eritrean Constitution. Article 3 (sub-paragraph 17) of the 2001 Labor Proclamation specifically excludes activities performed under national service or other civic obligations from the definition of forced labor. Existing labor protections limiting hours of work and prohibiting harsh conditions did not apply to persons engaged in national service. The Proclamation of National Service 11/199 prohibits the recruitment of children younger than 18 years of age into the armed forces. The penalties are sufficiently stringent.

The government did not report efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenders in 2013. Though the government issued public statements on the arrests of an unknown number of traffickers, the details of these arrests are unclear and the government does not distinguish between human smuggling and human trafficking crimes. The government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government employees complicit in human trafficking. Some reports indicated that Eritrean diplomats abroad, particularly those in Khartoum, Sudan, allegedly facilitated the provision of travel documents and legal services for Eritrean nationals abroad—some of whom may be trafficking victims—in exchange for gifts or inflated fees. In early 2013, the government established a branch of the National Security Agency to investigate economic crimes of national security importance, including human trafficking, but it was unclear whether this branch initiated any trafficking investigations—distinct from smuggling investigations—during the reporting period. The government did not report providing training to officials on responding to trafficking crimes, nor did it report whether it provided training that addressed any child soldier issues to the Eritrean Defense Forces.


The government made few apparent efforts to identify or provide protection to trafficking victims. The government did not have procedures in place to identify trafficking victims among deported Eritreans or persons forcibly removed by Eritrean security forces from neighboring countries. The government did not ensure that potential trafficking victims were not arrested or detained; Eritrean nationals who were deported back to the country and those fleeing Eritrea—some of whom may be trafficking victims—were highly vulnerable to being arrested, detained, tortured, forced to pay fines, and even shot on sight by military forces. The government did not demonstrate efforts to identify potential victims among this vulnerable group. The government was not transparent about its efforts to ensure that children under the age of 18 did not participate in activities that amounted to military service and were not forced to perform work of a non- military nature. The local Eritrean media continued to report government efforts to repatriate women and girls exploited abroad in domestic servitude or sex trafficking, but it did not provide information on the type of assistance provided to these victims. The government did not provide victims with legal alternatives for their removal to countries where they faced retribution or hardship.


The government made weak efforts to prevent trafficking. Its efforts to prevent this crime were difficult to evaluate as it tended to regard all transnational migration as human trafficking. Warnings issued by government-sponsored organizations such as the Youth Association, Women’s Association, and Workers’ Federation incorporated information about the dangers of trafficking into their regular programming, as well as through mass convocations, television programs, and poster campaigns. Though the Ministry of Labor was responsible for investigating labor abuses, the government did not report information on its efforts to punish labor brokers or recruiters. In January 2014, the MFA accepted a longstanding request from an international organization to visit Eritrea for consultations on issues including forced military conscription and human trafficking, among other issues. In December 2013, the Foreign Ministry invited international organizations to visit Eritrea to discuss humanitarian and development cooperation, including anti-trafficking issues. The government did not report efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts or forced labor, and it did not take measures to address child sex tourism of Eritrean nationals both domestically and abroad. Eritrea is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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3 Responses to “U.S. issued a comprehensive report on Ethiopia and Eritrea”

  1. Seble Ephrem says:

    The part on Eritrea is one more piece to go on the long list of “Lies Against Eritrea”.

    As for the failure to mention Ethiopian asylum seekers that enter Eritrea including high ranking military personnel, is probably an oversight?

  2. jagama says:

    Heart braking. Meles Zenawi and Issayas Aforki destroyed a nation and a generation. This is crime.

  3. Tesfu Kbrom says:

    I wonder about the response of Seble Ephrem, and I would not say she is Eritrean. As an Eritrean she should have been concerned about the problems the Eritrean people are facing. They are not even having the basic necessities of life. Eritrea has become changed into a huge rural village with no water, electricity, fuel or bread not to mention milk and other commodities. People are imprisoned without trial or a court hearing for years. And yet this lady is telling us that no Eritreans are being tortured inside Eritrea or outside Eritrea, no Eritreans are fleeing the nation!!!!