Ethiopia considers death penalty for people smugglers, human traffickers

Ethiopian lawmakers have drafted a bill to introduce harsher penalties, including the death penalty, for those who facilitate irregular migration. The bill was drafted as an effort to prevent human trafficking, people smuggling and illegal overseas employment, as well as to dismantle organised crime groups in the region. 

Many refugees and Ethiopian nationals pay people smugglers in an attempt to reach Europe, the Middle East, Gulf states and South Africa via irregular routes. Migrants along these routes often face difficult conditions, such as hunger and dehydration, physical and sexual abuse and even death. 

Ethiopia is among the top origin countries, as well as top transit countries, of irregular migration in Africa on three major routes: to the Arabian Peninsula, to South Africa and to Europe. Figures indicate that more than 100,000 migrants originating from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia are smuggled into Yemen every year, facing abuse on the journey. There is also an estimated 700,000 African migrants stranded in Libya in inhumane conditions, many of them from Ethiopia and Eritrea. 

The draft law was approved by the Cabinet in August and will be presented to the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives for approval. Communications Director for the Office of the Attorney General, Zenabu Tulu, stressed that current laws are inadequate to combat the problem. 

Ethiopian authorities have been working to toughen the punishments since a 2015 proclamation to prevent and suppress crimes of trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants. The proclamation punishes those who are found guilty with imprisonment from 15 to 25 years and with a fine of up to USD 10,000.

Other government efforts to combat human trafficking and people smuggling have included awareness raising campaigns and agreements with neighbouring countries to strengthen border management. Despite these efforts, thousands of Ethiopians are estimated to be smuggled to foreign countries yearly.

TMP 25/10/2019

Photo credit: By lkpro/

Photo caption: Ethiopian soldier at the border