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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Tigray Emerging as Horn of Africa’s Human Trafficking Hub

The Growing Human Trafficking Crisis in Tigray

After the 1998 Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) declared naked aggression against Eritrea failed miserably, the TPLF, in partnership with certain Western governments, devised a strategy to deplete Eritrea of its youth and hinder its productive labor force. This sinister agenda was supported by continuous propaganda from Radio Woyane and Radio Wogahta, both owned and operated by the TPLF governing the Tigray region of Ethiopia. In his previous article titled, “The TPLF Militia Massacred 1300 Eritrean refugees,” the author has already described how many of the Eritrean refugees hosted in the Tigray camps were either killed by the TPLF militia, fled the camps, or were transferred to the new refugee camp in Alemwatch, located in Northern Gondar. When the war between the TPLF and the Ethiopian Federal government, supported by its allies, ended in a peace treaty signed in Pretoria, South Africa, on November 3rd, 2022, there were no Eritrean refugees left in Tigray. Now, a new human trafficking ring has emerged to fill the gap, and Tigray is on its way to becoming the Horn of Africa’s Human Trafficking hub. For convenience, the author will discuss the current human trafficking activities in the Tigray region of Ethiopia in terms of categories of victims than traffickers.

Unsuspecting Eritrean Refugees Crossing to Tigray

Refugee crossing from Eritrea to Tigray has decreased significantly. However, some Eritrean youngsters who are misled by the false propaganda that if they cross to Tigray, they could be resettled to other Western countries are still crossing from Eritrea to Tigray. When they cross from Eritrea to Tigray, they are first received by the TPLF’s military security agents who often operate close to the Eritrean border. The TPLF military security agents receive and lock the Eritrean refugees in abandoned vacant homes in villages close to the border and start calling the refugees’ relatives in Eritrea for ransom money. The families are requested to deposit a minimum of $5000 per person in a bank account in Addis Ababa or accounts located in banks in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates. This shows the traffickers have a network that extends to countries outside of Ethiopia. After the money is deposited as instructed, if the refugee is lucky, he or she is transferred to the Tigrayan police. The Tigrayan police get their cut from the $5000 dollars paid to the military security agents, and they transport the refugees to a nearby city and transfer them to another group of human traffickers. The latter human traffickers’ job is to request additional money in exchange for moving the refugees from Tigray to Addis Ababa. Again, Eritrean refugees could be asked to pay any amount ranging from $4000 to $5000. In general, the Tigrayan institutional human traffickers can generate more than $10,000 from a single refugee. The abuse, rape, and even killing that go into the process of extracting money from the refugee families are part of the business.

Eritrean Cattle Herders and Kids Kidnapped from Border Villages

The Tigray Military security agents who operate close to the border with Eritrea also kidnap unsuspecting cattle herders and young kids from Eritrean villages adjacent to the border. The motive for such kidnapping is also ransom money. This group of Eritrean cattle herders and young kids is different from the first group described above because it is a victim of kidnapping. For the rest, the procedure followed to extract ransom money from families in Eritrea or in the diaspora is the same. After the requested ransom is paid, if lucky this group of trafficked persons is released to the respective villages. However, even after the ransom money is paid, it is common for the unlucky ones to get killed or disappear without a trace. The killing and disappearance of kidnapped Eritrean cattle herders and young kids are justified as revenge for the Eritrean military’s participation, in support of the Ethiopian federal army, in the 2020-2022 war ignited by the TPLF. Such blind hatred against innocent Eritrean cattle herders and kids is aimed at TPLF’s agenda of creating a conflict between communities that reside on both sides of the border.

Tigrayan Youth Fleeing Tigray

The human trafficking ring in the Tigray region of Ethiopia also traffics Tigrayan youth who would like to travel to Djibouti or Addis Ababa in illegal ways. Many Tigrayans who lost hope in Tigray are trekking to Djibouti. The ultimate destination of this group is Saudi Arabia. Again, this human trafficking route is controlled by the Tigray military security agents. For the Tigrayan youth who want to cross from Tigray to the Afar region of Ethiopia, it could cost them between $1000 to $2000. A similar amount is requested to cross from Tigray to the Amhara region. Some evidence indicates that the Tigray Military security human trafficking ring extends all the way to Kenya and Uganda.

Tigrayan Kids Kidnapped inside Tigray

Because the Tigrayan Military Security human trafficking ring operates in borders, the kidnapping of kids from well-to-do and middle-income families in Tigray for ransom is believed to be the work of gangs operating inside Tigray cities. However, it would be difficult to assume that the gangs are operating on their own. It is highly likely that the gangs are receiving protection from the Tigray military or people higher up in the echelons of power for a cut from the ransom money generated.


Human trafficking in Tigray is institutional, mainly driven by ransom money. Those who used to steal and sell food aid have now moved to the human trafficking business to fill their coffers. If the budding human trafficking ring in the Tigray region is not stopped as soon as possible, it could transition to arms and drug trafficking. It is foolish to think that the Tigray regional government, which brags to have a 270,000-size military army, could not control the human traffickers. Thus, we can only conclude that the officials in the regional government and its military wing are letting it happen because of the money it is generating from human trafficking activity. What they do not know is that sooner or later, the crossing of refugees from Eritrea to the Tigray region of Ethiopia will stop, and the traffickers will continue to traffic Tigrayans more than Eritreans. That is why the Tigray Regional Government needs to act now rather than later.

Victory to The Masses and Eternal Glory to Our Martyrs.


The views and opinions titled "Tigray Emerging as Horn of Africa’s Human Trafficking Hub", are those of Abel Kebedom and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Setit Media. ኣብዚ "Tigray Emerging as Horn of Africa’s Human Trafficking Hub", ዘርእስቱ ጽሑፍ ተገሊጹ ዘሎ ርእይቶን ሓሳብን ናይ Abel Kebedom እምበር መትከላትን መርገጽን ሰቲት ሚዲያ ዘንጸባርቕ ኣይኮነን።

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