The government increased efforts to identify and refer transnational trafficking victims to care; however, officials’ efforts to proactively identify victims of internal forms of exploitation within the country, such as sex trafficking or domestic servitude, remained inadequate in relation to the scale of the issue. Authorities reported identifying 27,877 potential victims of transnational trafficking (14,770 men and 13,107 women) in 2019, compared with intercepting 10,100 potential adult and child victims in 2018; the majority of those identified were intending to depart Ethiopia for overseas work, and it was unclear if traffickers had exploited them through sex trafficking or forced labor. Additionally, media reported officials identified 62 potential child victims in January 2020 during the course of law enforcement activities. In terms of non-transnational trafficking, the Attorney General’s Office stated four one-stop justice and protection centers in Addis Ababa provided some services to 2,119 sex trafficking victims (2,043 female and 76 male) and 153 victims of labor exploitation identified during the course of law enforcement investigations. The government did not report widely disseminating or implementing its SOPs for the proactive identification of internal and transnational trafficking victims during the reporting year. Officials at Bole International Airport and at land border crossings coordinated with an international organization to screen Ethiopians returning from abroad. Observers noted the time allotted for interviews was insufficient to screen potential victims, but the volume of returnees created challenges to expanding the available time.
The government developed a national referral mechanism in partnership with a donor and international organization. Experts described the national referral mechanism as effective with robust victim protection measures; however, it did not report disseminating or using the referral mechanism during the reporting period. Regional governments collaborated with local and federal police to refer an unknown number of victims to shelters and other protective services.
Officials continued to jointly operate two migration response centers in Afar and Metema with an international organization and provided rent-free usage of 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 en route from rural to urban areas. Police and civil service transport workers—trained to recognize internal child trafficking victims—referred an unknown number of intercepted children to local shelters. Officials provided shelter, food, education, medical assistance, and familial reunification where feasible. There continued to be a dearth of care available for male trafficking victims.
Officials stated the government provided repatriation assistance and job training to 7,545 of the aforementioned 27,877 potential victims, compared with repatriating more than 2,600 from Saudi Arabia in 2018. Additionally, media reported the government repatriated 400 Ethiopians who may have been trafficking victims from Saudi Arabia in October 2019. Since the government lacked funding to repatriate all of its nationals, it assisted with victim identification services in respective countries and sometimes negotiated discounted airfares for returnees. Some Ethiopian diplomatic missions in Gulf states provided temporary shelter for victims on respective mission compounds, 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. Foreign donors and international organizations augmented these funds; however, similar to the previous year, the government did not report efforts to begin financial allocations to administer the fund.
While officials reported encouraging victims in some cases to assist in the investigation and prosecution of their traffickers, authorities did not report the number of victims who took an active role in these processes, and it was unclear whether the government provided them legal assistance or other support to facilitate their doing so. The government did not report whether the specialized witness protection unit—established in the previous reporting period—took any actions in 2019. Supreme Court officials stated in the past that children were able to testify against traffickers via video. In 2019, officials signed an MOU with NGOs to improve coordination between law enforcement agencies and service providers. The government intended the MOU to ensure service providers delivered appropriate care to victims throughout the course of legal proceedings.
Proclamation No.909/2015 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 direct result of unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit. There were no reports the government summarily deported any trafficking victims without proper screening or detained, fined, jailed, or otherwise penalized victims for unlawful acts traffickers compelled them to commit in 2019. However, in past years there were reports the government housed some victims at police stations while they were waiting to provide testimony in their respective trafficking cases, and, given ad hoc implementation of formal identification and referral procedures, authorities may have detained or deported some unidentified trafficking victims.