Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Traffickers prey on Ethiopian migrants

(Jun 04, 2014, (The Starphoenix)--Sintayehu Beyene left Ethiopia planning to earn money to begin a carpentry business. He ended up captive in Yemen where Kalashnikovwielding traffickers stole what little he owned.

Grabbed from a boatload of migrant workers as it landed on a Yemeni shore, he says the armed gang whisked him inland to a desert camp. Beaten and detained for nine days with about 30 other people, he was forced to hand over the 1,400 Ethiopian birr ($71 US) he was carrying before being released. He crossed to neighbouring Saudi Arabia, where wages are sometimes more than double the rates paid in Ethiopia, only to be deported a month later when authorities cracked down on illegal migrants.

"They robbed and beat me," Beyene, 31, said in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, recalling his treatment at the camp in northern Yemen five months ago. "They took all the money I had."

Beyene may have got off lightly, according to Human Rights Watch. Ethiopians and other migrants arriving in Yemen have been captured and tortured by human traffickers planning to extort ransoms that can be more than $1,000 from their families, the New Yorkbased advocacy group said in a recent report. One witness cited by Human Rights Watch described captors gouging out a man's eyes with a water bottle.

Torture is one of the dangers faced by thousands of Ethiopians who travel to seek work in the Arabian Peninsula, where maids can earn $200 a month compared to the $90 the Ethiopian government estimated in 2012 that an average college graduate made back home. Read more from The Starphoenix »

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