While much attention is rightly focused on the perils of Mediterranean Sea crossings, the Human Rights Watch organization is calling attention to the conditions faced by Ethiopian migrants as they take other routes across the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.
“A combination of factors, including unemployment and other economic difficulties, drought, and human rights abuses have driven hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians to migrate over the past decade,” said HRW on Thursday. The migrants pin their hopes on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states where they can find work, but instead encounter abuses from human traffickers similar to those seen in Libya.
People interviewed for a new HRW report said their own boat journeys – sometimes lasting 24 hours under dangerous conditions – were traumatic.
“There were 180 people on the boat, but 25 died,” one man said. “The boat was in trouble and the waves were hitting it. It was overloaded and about to sink so the dallalas (traffickers) picked some out and threw them into the sea, around 25.”
The dangers don’t end there as Ethiopians arrive in war-torn Yemen or get sent to prisons in Saudi Arabia. Saudi officials said earlier this month that police had arrested 3.6 million people for a range of immigration-related offenses, and detained 61,000 people – more than half of them Ethiopians – for crossing into Saudi Arabia illegally.
The human rights NGO is calling on Ethiopia to do more when its citizens are returned, usually on flights that land in Addis Ababa and leave them far from home.
Image: IOM file