New Ethiopian Law on Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling

Human trafficking and migrant smuggling are among the world's most shameful crimes, affecting every region in the world, including Eastern African countries. Most concretely in Ethiopia, the need to bolster the country's law to fight this scourge has long been seen as compelling and urgent.

That is why Ethiopia's recent passing of a comprehensive legislation against the two crimes was welcomed as good news.

UNODC - ROEA (United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime - Regional Office in Eastern Africa) joined forces with the Government to make that happened: It provided technical advice to the inter-ministry team responsible for drawing up the new text, while ensuring that this fully incorporated the international  Protocols on Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

According to ROEA office, the legislation is "an important step forward in the combat against trafficking and smuggling.  This new law stiffens the penalties, and emphasizes prevention and cross-border cooperation to make this combat more effective."

The text also means a breakthrough in victim protection: "It lays the foundations for better protection to trafficking victims and vulnerable migrants. For example, it has provisions that foresee assistance to them as well as the creation of a Victim Fund."

More than 90,000 migrants mainly from Ethiopia and Somalia were smuggled into Yemen in 2014. Ethiopia is in fact a country of origin and transit to three migration routes in Africa -Northern, Southern and Eastern.

Tempted by job prospects abroad, many migrants use smugglers for a trip where too many end up falling prey to trafficking. They face unimaginable hardships - from abductions, attacks, hunger and dehydration on route, to physical, sexual and psychological abused restriction of movements and denial of salaries at destination.

In this sense, the new legislation is expected to rise Ethiopia's capacity to fight traffickers and smugglers and dismantle organized crime groups in the region.  

ROEA, in the meanwhile, continues to support the Government in implementing pivotal issues like ensuring witness and victim protection, and raising awareness of the new text among criminal justice practitioners. Up to 70 judges, prosecutors and police investigators have already been trained on the contents of the law as well as its potential for implementation.

Consistent with the "training of trainers" model, the knowledge gained by the participants is expected to cascade down to hundreds of their colleagues in each of Ethiopia's regions.

The project is supported by the EU and the US State Department.