Across the border

By NebiyuYohanns – published on “በረራ” (Ethiopian Amharic newspaper)

Johnny was W/roAbeba’s only son. His mother had worked hard to make a living and send him to a university to get a degree. Not only her but also his little sister had hoped he would look after them.

Like any other young Ethiopian graduate, he had waited for a while to get a job. Lastly, he managed to get one. However, he didn’t earn a kind of money that is worth doing the job he was doing. Hence, his dreams of change led him to a deal with human traffickers who promised him to help him cross the Ethiopian border via Metema. Girmachew, a friend of Johnny, says that he and their friends have repeatedly told Johnny not to cross the border when Johnny told them about his plan.

 
Upon his arrival in Libya, he was taken a hostage by human traffickers. The traffickers win bread for their families by holding the migrants hostage and asking for ransom. Johnny’s mom had no penny, yet his friends and relatives had contributed and paid the ransom. It was a relief for all, yet it didn’t last long. The traffickers had again asked for more. Again, his friends send more money for the traffickers. Johnny couldn’t still set his foot in his dream land because the traffickers had asked for more money for the third time. He knew that neither his friends and relatives nor his mother can afford the ransom. His only hope was to escape. He was unlucky; he was shot and killed. That was the end of it. His dreams and his family’s hope has changed in to a dust in the Libyan desert.
W/roAbeba starts to cry whenever people speak of migration. It reminds her of the many desperate mothers who have lost their loved ones. Johnny and other African youth, whose number is estimated in millions, had dreams of reaching Europe. However, their dreams have been shattered and they ended up victims of human smugglers and traffickers.
 

From the horn to Europe

Mothers like W/roAbebaare made to cry by criminals whose pursuit is of money. The network stretches from our home, Ethiopia to Europe.
 
According to a study by Sahan Foundation, which was organized by IGAD in 2016, the trafficking centers the Mediterranean cost and stretches from East Africa to southern Europe.
 
The different constraintsthat, the east African governments have contributed to the thriving of the human smugglers and traffickers. According to a study conducted by European Union Emergency Trust for Africa (2019), the traffickers are powerful and have continued to operate in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and other East African countries.
 
In addition, the limitations in law enforcement and intelligence and influence of foreign forces and anarchism have led to the region’s instability. Terrorist groups are also accountable for creating favorable conditions for the traffickers. The terrorists groups and the traffickers work together and involve in international criminal acts.
 
TemesgenDessalegn, in his investigative report for the ‘Fitih’magazine, had found out that the human traffickers are amongst the top smugglers of fire arms from Sudan to Ethiopia. These criminals are part of an international network that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to Tekeze and the Gwang River in Ethiopia. These groups are powerful and operate in a clandestine way that they are untouchables. Some security, intelligence and customs authorities of the two countries participate in the smuggling of fire arms and human trafficking. This has made the effort difficult to put an end to illegal migration and smuggling of firearms. The smugglers care less about the fire arms they smuggle from Humera and Metema to Addis Ababa. Their biggest worry is rather whether there are enough illegal migrates who are ready to flee their countries. 
 
The traffickers in the various countries work in cooperation and it is by beating and torturing the migrants that they move the migrants. According to the International Organization for Migration, the number of migrants in the Libyan detention centers has reached from 5,000 in 2017 to more than 9500 in 2018. Indeed, it is believed that the number is even greater. There is also a great number of Africans crossing borders without security forces’ knowledge.

When migrants, whose there dream are Europe, arrived at Libya, they treated as a slave by smugglers and traffickers. EU Emergancy Trust for Africa reports that, in 2018 there are increased reports of migrants and refugees being treated as commodities or collateral. Over the past two years, they have become victims of even more violent and exploitative treatment at the hands of human traffickers. They are routinely held hostage, aggressively tortured for ransom, and sold across several criminal networks in a cyclical exchange. Smuggling and trafficking networks in Libya maintain complex relations among themselves; regularly switching between fierce commercial competition to control the market of migrants, and then cooperation when they sell and exchange migrants to one another. Each time a migrant is exchanged, there is an increase in the price that is paid.

The traffickers consider Libya a passage and move migrants from Ethiopia and other countries in the horn of Africa to Europe. Border cities/towns of the countries are living witnesses, and Gondar is amongst them.
 
Gondar –the gateway to Sudan
 
Johnny's hometown, Gondar, is a town where there are still smuggling and trafficking activities. Migrants from different parts of the country more often make their first stop in Gondar and use it as a passage/access to Metema and then to Sudan. W/roTiruye, head of the Gondar town’s Labor and Welfare office says that, "It is now quite common to see an increasing number of strangers/migrants in the town. She also says that the smuggling is carried out in an illicit way. 
The traffickers are often winners of the hide and seek with the security forces, but are usually caught up by the public or discovered whencar accidents occur. A good example can be last week’s car accident which occurred at the night time and whose many victims were illegal migrants. 
 

On the other hand, the public also participates in rescuing manyof theillegal migrants by making an unprecedented checks of vehicles traveling through Gondar. Luckily, this year alone, it has managed to rescue 107 migrants in two rounds and the migrants have reunited with their families.

As W/roTiruye points out, the local government has financial and administrative constraints in repatriating the migrants and bringing the traffickers to justice. It is also the jurisdiction of the federal police, not the local governments, to bring the traffickers to court and the process takes time. 
 
Such constraints and administrative incapacities have created a fertile ground for the traffickers to use Gondar as an access to move the migrants to Metema. These traffickers are also knowledgeable of these gaps and use the opportunity to move the migrants and establish a form of modern day slavery in Africa. 

 To close the beyond

 
Africa is a land of young population, and this happens to be both an opportunity and a challenge. If the governments in Africa do not strive to use this force to nation building, Africa will end up land of the traffickers and smugglers.Therefore, it is the duty of the governments to work hard and create job opportunities to the youth so that the youthdoesn’t dream of crossing the Mediterranean sea, the Atlantic and the Indian ocean. 
 
The source of the many faceted problems of Africa is poor governance. The countries in Africa are still unable to establish legal systems and strong institutions rather those countries are governed by the will of the few, andindividuals are more likely to manipulate this opportunity.
 
It is because of the absence of a system and strong institutions that the illegal groups do what they do now. The groups bribe some irresponsible staff of the security, police and military forces. And this has aggravated the situation in East Africa. Nevertheless, it is never too late for nations that are determined to devise a control mechanism on its officers and authorities, as well as the smugglers and traffickers.
Young people should hold themselves responsible, too. First, they must struggle towards having strongdemocratic governments. It is also their duty to strive to build institutions that maintainrule of law, for their countries will remain in their hearts even if they migrate. Thus, it is apt to strive to make their countries a better place to live in. 
 
Africa has resources and has a lot to offer, yet its peace and stability are marred not only by the Africans themselves but because of Europeans’ meddling in African politics in the name of maintaining national interest.The Europeans must refrain from wrong activities that destabilizes Africa. European countries that have migration issues must work in close proximity with the governments in Africa and find a way that the migrants get the life and dignity they deserve in their own countries. It is also a win-win solution for them to endeavor to dry the source of migration instead of arguing over itand the crisis it has brought upon Europe.It only that way the Europeans can genuinely participate in the efforts to reduce poverty and migration and achieve democracy in Africa.

Had there been peace, rule of law, development, democracy in Africa, migrants wouldn’t have thought of migrations, and traffickers wouldn’t have gotten refuge. Similarly, the African youth such as Johnny would have given up their dreams of crossing borders and hoped a better life in Africa.