Trends in Human Trafficking – Issue no. 17 – EEPA News Highlights

Dear readers,

The EEPA team is pleased to present the 17th issue of the newsletter on Trends in Human Trafficking between the Greater Horn of Africa and Europe. Please feel free to forward this information to others or invite them to subscribe via this link. If you have information to contribute, do not hesitate to contact us.

Research & Reports: 

Protection services along migration routes for victims of human trafficking are lacking
In July 2022,  UNHCR published a new report mapping the situation concerning the status of the protection services along the migration routes within 12 African countries, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Somalia. The report identified several gaps in protection services that are available to migrants, refugees, and survivors of human rights abuses including human trafficking. The report highlights that victims of human trafficking have limited access to protection sevices such as specialized shelters, identification procedures, determination of international protection status, and healthcare and mental health support. In addition, the report calls for a strengthened approach in legal services and counselling. “[T]raffickers often use their victims as shields against prosecution and to enjoy impunity, legal services for survivors are much needed in the interests of access to justice and remedies”. UNHCR adds that “as men are often not eligible for the limited support that is available”, it has been recommended to increase the access to protection services for male victims of human trafficking. 

Annual report analyses country mechanisms for combating human trafficking
The U.S. Department of State published its annual Trafficking in Persons Report for the year 2022. The main objective of the report is to monitor the efforts of national governments to combat human trafficking through various mechanisms and measure progress made over the last year. Each country analysis includes a description of human trafficking situation and factors increasing vulnerability to human trafficking, a list of legal instruments, a summary of protection and preventive mechanisms, as well as a list of recommendations. In order to succeed in the eradication of human trafficking, it is neccessary to engage with survivors “in a responsible and meaningful way” using trauma-informed approaches to prevent any re-traumatization of victims, according to the report. The report places each country into one of four Tiers based on their performance. Eritrea and South Sudan have been placed in the last last rank tier for several consecutive years as their respective governments do not “fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking”. Human traffickers continue to exploit victims in their countries and refugees from Eritrea and South Sudan are prone to fall into the hands of traffickers en route. In the case of Ethiopia, persecution and protection mechanisms remain limited, says the report. “Corruption and official complicity in trafficking crimes remained significant concerns, inhibiting law enforcement action”. The report categorises three countries – Libya, Somalia and Yemen – under the ‘Special case’ category, due to severe national instability, ongoing conflict,  lack of institutional capacities and minimal efforts of government to address human trafficking. In Libya, migrants and refugees are extremely vulnerable to human trafficking. The report oberved “systemic and prevalent complicity of government officials in human trafficking, including Libyan Coast Guard (LCG) officials, immigration officers, security officials, Ministry of Defense (MOD) officials, members of armed groups formally integrated into state institutions, and officials from the MOI and MOI’s Department to Combat Illegal Migration”.

Nexus between organized crime groups and human trafficking and smuggling in East Africa
A research report published in collaboration between INTERPOL and Enhancing Africa’s response to transnational organized crime (ENACT) assesses dynamics of organised armed groups in relation to armed conflicts and other ongoing illicit activities in the region of East Africa. The illicit businesses of organised crime groups are being sustained by ongoing armed conflicts and violence of different criminal networks, states the report. Some of the groups are motivated by financial reasons, others by specific ideologies or self-defence motives. The report showed a nexus between illicit market and human trafficking and human smuggling networks, stating that Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan and Somalia are the most affected countries from this region. The presence of human traffickers and smugglers in the region is supported by armed and organised crime groups who tend to “provide protection and safe passage to smugglers in areas controlled by them”. The ongoing exploitation by criminal organisations is closely linked to continuous mass movement of persons “both fleeing armed conflict and seeking out greater economic opportunities”. 

Trends in human smuggling in Libya
Authors Rupert Horsley and Jessica Gerken published a report on human smuggling in Libya which has been a part of a series by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. The objective of the paper is to provide key trends and an analytical overview regarding human smuggling of migrants and refugees in Libya. The complexity of human smuggling networks has been attributed to the ongoing political instability in the country. In 2021, criminal cooperation between smuggling groups strengthened “with larger numbers of migrants being transported and accommodated across a more consistent logistical chain, for up-front payments”. Analysis further showed an increase in the number of boats carrying a larger number of passengers on board crossing to Europe. In addition, the use of wooden boats has increased by 10% in 2021, as compared to the preceding 3 years. The report observed a change in demographic profiles of migrants and refugees that have been smuggled across the Mediterranean sea since 2017. “This disparity is explained by the fact that different nationality groups tend to engage with human smugglers in distinct ways, depending on economic, social and geographic circumstances; and this leads to different outcomes.” 

Article looks at linkage between disability and human trafficking 
Researchers Caroline Jagoe, Pei Ying Natalie Toh and Gillian Wylie published an article looking at the intersection between people with disabilities and vulnerability to human trafficking. The authors point out that disabled persons remain severly underrepresented in the existing research on human trafficking and call for more reliable evidence-based data. In total, 22 case law studies were analysed to identify factors that increase vulnerability to human trafficking of persons with disabilities, including physical, mental and sensory disability.  Analysis showed that human traffickers “exploited the socio-economic needs, relationship needs and therapeutic or rehabilitative needs of their victims with disabilities”. In addition, the traffickers use tools of threatening victims as well as their families to force them to obey them. “In some cases, these threats were perpetuated over digital communications.” Authors observed some cases in which traffickers were diagnosed with mental disorders. During prosecution of traffickers with secondary and supportive roles, the court took into consideration the mental health condition of perpetrators and lowered the sentence. 

Perception of liberation by survivors of human trafficking in Ethiopia 
A research report by  Emily Brady and Andrea Nicholson  published at the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab looked at how liberation of survivors of human trafficking is being sustained after receiving reintegration support. The case study is based on the experiences of Ethiopian women survivors of human trafficking who have been trafficked within Ethiopia or abroad and returned to their country. “Women survivors described NGO support in the forms of education and training, small start-up grants, and advocating for improved government services as crucial to providing the conditions for sustained liberation”. The analysis showed that support to human trafficking victims should emphasise both community and individual approaches in order to secure the sense of independence of survivors. Furthermore, the study showed a difference in perception of freedom between women and younger girls; linking freedom to sustainable income and stable employment for older women, while having access to education and having “decent working conditions” were important for younger counterparts. For both groups maintaining close relationships with family showed a significant factor contributing to their perceived freedom. Interviews revealed several obstacles hindering sustained liberation such as the education system, “limited market opportunities for decent work, and escalating costs of living”. 

Refugees fleeing Ethiopia are exposed to human traffickers in Sudan
A briefing note by the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies describes the ongoing influx of refugees who are fleeing the war from Tigray, Ethiopia, to Sudan. As the open conflict resumed in late August 2022, Sudanese authorities observed an increased number of people arriving in the country. In addition to the humanitarian situation and security concerns, the briefing note warns that the exploitation of refugees by human traffickers is a raising concern. “Kidnappings and abductions have been reported from Shagarab, Fetaw Eshrin and Umgurgur camps in Sudan”, states the note, while attributing these crimes to the Rashaida and nomadic groups living in Sudan and Eritrea. The briefing paper calls for “robust action to prevent, and ensure accountability for, trafficking in human beings”. 

News Articles: 

Key human trafficker is extradited to the Netherlands
According to the Dutch prosecutors, a key human trafficker of Eritrean origin – Tewelde Goitom, known as Walid or Welid – has been extradited to the Netherlands. The 38-year old man is accused of having a leading role in the trafficking of Eritrean refugees from Africa to Europe between 2014 and 2020. Victims of trafficking under Welid were often beaten, tortured, raped and extorted for ransom money. Many did not survive. According to the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service, the human trafficker was already arrested and tried in Ethiopia last year together with fellow notorious trafficker Kidane Zekarias Habtemariam – who escaped. “Under the concept of universal jurisdiction, Dutch law allows cases to be brought against foreign nationals for crimes committed abroad if victims are in the Netherlands”, informs Reuters. Based on the report by the Dutch media outlet NU, Tewelde Goitom arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday, 5 October, and is due to appear in court today, 6 October 2022. 

Trafficked victims rescued from warehouse in Libya
In total, 287 Egyptian migrants and refugees, aged between 12-50 years, have been discovered in a warehouse in the east of Libya. More than 90 of rescued survivors were children, reports Euro-Med Monitor. Migrants and refugees paid human traffickers and smugglers money in order to be transported to Italy. “Some paid up to 170,000 Egyptian pounds (approximately $8,800 USD) for the journey”. When reaching Libya, they were detained inside a warehouse. According to the testimonies, traffickers used physical and verbal violence, including beating, electrocution and humiliation. Nour Olwan, Euro-Med Monitor’s Chief Media Officer, said: “the state is responsible for tightening control over smuggling and human trafficking networks, thwarting any similar attempts targeting children or adults, and must intensify efforts to create job opportunities and raise the country’s standard of living”