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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 September 2005, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Ethiopian tells of migrant ordeal
By Mohammed Adow
BBC, Addis Ababa

Alem's picture story
The picture story is being given to Ethiopians when they pick up their passports
An Ethiopian woman has gone public with her harrowing story about being trafficked to work in Bahrain, hoping this will serve as a warning to others.

"I believed the lies of a trafficker and a family friend whom I thought I could trust," says Alem Teklu, 29.

"I ended up being abused, exploited, and held against my will.

"My employer refused to pay my salary of more than six months and wanted me to forcefully marry her brother."

Alem's story has been turned into a picture story by the International Organization of Migration in order to end the silence which has surrounded the plight of trafficked Ethiopians.

Yitna Getachew, the head of IOM's counter-trafficking programme in Ethiopia, says the booklet is being distributed for free in the department of immigration, when people go to pick up their passports, as well as by various organisations around the country.

Ethiopia has for a long time been a source of men, women, and children trafficked for forced labour and sexual exploitation.

Every year thousands of young Ethiopians are trafficked for involuntary domestic labour to the Middle East, particularly Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.

'Pure hell'

"Sexual harassment by male members of the family I worked for were a commonplace. But I wasn't treated as badly as other Ethiopians, maybe because I used the Muslim name of Mumina while working in Bahrain.

"It was pure hell for me and my friends. When I ultimately fled back home it was like coming out of prison after being sentenced to life imprisonment."

Alem Teklu
Alem is now a successful graphic designer
Charles Kwenin, IOM's chief of mission in Ethiopia, says Alem's decision to go public with her story was very courageous.

"We are grateful that she has shared this very personal story so that others can learn from her experience. We hope that 'Alem's Story' inspires others to seek out legal channels when travelling for work abroad," he said.

Alem said she went to Bahrain hoping to earn enough money to send back to help her family.

"But this was not to be. Three years after leaving my country, I came back poorer than when I left.

"It is sad that up to now not much information is available to young girls being trafficked and that is why I thought I should stand up and tell my fellow Ethiopians flocking with their dreams to the Middle East what lies ahead."

Alem, who is now a successful graphic designer in Addis Ababa, says she bitterly regrets the three years she wasted working as a domestic servant in Bahrain.

Alarming increase

But it is not only in the countries of their destination that Ethiopians being trafficked face problems.

They can endure severe hardship and even death on their arduous journeys to the Middle East.

Many believe that trafficking is being fuelled by the abject poverty facing many Ethiopians.

In a recent report, the Federal Police Commission confirmed that illegal immigration and human trafficking activities in Ethiopia were increasing at an alarming rate.

This year alone, the police commission says it has investigated more than 500 cases of human trafficking - a 46% increase from last year's figures.


Have you had a similar experience? Tell us using the form below.

I was born in Addis Ababa and grew up there. I am in Europe now, studying. Last year I went to Ethiopia visit my family and I met some of my childhood school friends and I heard so many horrible histories about my friends women - who travelled to the Middle East, especially to Beirut, in search of work to help their families. I heard stories of abuse and those who have returned have not recovered mentally from their experiences. I heard about how some women were thrown from the highest floor of the building where they were working and living; others were burned with boiling water on faces... all done by their Arab employers. There is also abuse of young Ethiopians who fled to Kenya, where they are often abused by corrupt policemen, who steal their money. And they suffer sexual harassment. Hopefully one day, one time justice will prevail and our people will host immigrants, rather than fleeing their country in search bread and abuse.
Hailu, Ethiopian in Helsinki, Finland

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SEE ALSO:
Israel hastens Ethiopia migration
01 Feb 05 |  Middle East
Country profile: Ethiopia
06 Sep 05 |  Country profiles


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