Ethiopia: Employment agents complicit in human trafficking by giving false promises to foreign workers seeking employment in the Middle East

Author: Tom Gardner, Thomas Reuters Foundation, Published on: 10 October 2017

"Despite abuses, expelled Ethiopians hope to be smuggled back to Saudi Arabia"

Ethiopian maid Zenit Ali has post-traumatic stress disorder after being mistreated by her Saudi Arabian employer and deported in a government crackdown, but she still hopes to return to the Middle East. The 27-year-old is among some 70,000 illegal Ethiopian migrants expelled from the Gulf kingdom since March, as it seeks to reduce its reliance on millions of migrant laborers. “I‘m not happy,” she anxiously told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, while staying in a shelter for trafficked women run by a local charity Agar Ethiopia...

The number of Ethiopians being smuggled and trafficked to the Middle East has surged in recent years, as brokers lure the poor and unemployed with promises of a better life. Most women work as maids, often for more than 20 hours a day, with few legal rights. Many do not have enough food or sleep, have their phones and passports confiscated and endure physical and sexual abuse, rights groups say. The controversial “kafala” sponsorship system, used across the Gulf, requires foreign workers to get their employer’s consent to change jobs or leave the country...

...One of the main challenges in avoiding such tragedies is that most Ethiopian migrants to the Gulf chose to be smuggled across borders, often in deals arranged by brokers and employment agents from their own communities. “The brokers give them false promises,” said Niguse Mekonen, a spokesman for the charity Agar Ethiopia. “They don’t know what they’ll face.”

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