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15 Sep 2023

Zecharias Zelalem, The Globe and Mail (Canada)

Ethiopia: "Misleading" govt. Facebook ads for domestic workers allegedly leading to forced labour cases in Saudi Arabia, incl. co. comments

See all tags Allegations

"Ethiopian Facebook campaign for migrant workers enables human trafficking, forced labour in Saudia Arabia, advocates say,"

… the Ethiopian government is making heavy use of Facebook, promising safe jobs with steady incomes in Saudi Arabia. Data compiled by The Globe and Mail show that since late February, more than 200 Ethiopian state institutions – including government ministries, district administrations and state media – have used their official Facebook pages to promote the Saudi recruitment drive and lure Ethiopian women into registering.

The Globe has identified about 300 recruitment posts on Facebook by a range of Ethiopian state agencies, including dozens of government offices and branches of the ruling party, the Prosperity Party. The posts are often misleading, urging women to capitalize on what is portrayed as a job creation boon by the ruling party…

Despite the criticism from rights groups, the Ethiopian government says the recruitment campaign is an improvement on previous programs. “We’re sending trained workers, unlike before,” Muferiat Kamil, who heads Ethiopia’s Ministry of Labour and Skills, said in an April state media broadcast...

The Globe reached out to Ethiopia’s education and labour ministers, along with other officials in those departments, but none responded. The Globe also contacted the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry and the Saudi embassy in Canada to give them an opportunity to comment, but neither responded...

In response to questions from The Globe, a Meta spokesperson said Facebook has rules against human trafficking and it removes any such content – and the accounts behind it – whenever the company becomes aware of it.

“Human exploitation is abhorrent and not allowed on our platforms,” said Balkissa Idé Siddo, the Meta public policy director for Africa. “This includes the recruitment or facilitation of domestic servitude, including profiles of individuals to be sold as housemaids, and we take action on this content as soon as we become aware of it.”...

She said Meta is constantly updating its policy on human exploitation to address new forms of human trafficking. “Because of the risk of real world harm, material relating to human exploitation is prioritized for review by our safety and security team.”

When The Globe shared some examples of the Ethiopian recruitment advertisements on Facebook, she said: “We did review a large subset, and we will take action on any posts that do violate our policies.”…