Ethiopia: Critical moment to strengthen fight against trafficking in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara

Geneva, 3 October, 2022.- Women and girls in the Tigray, Afar and Amhar are increasingly vulnerable to abduction and trafficking for sexual exploitation as they flee the conflict in Northern Ethiopia, UN experts* warned today.

The protracted armed conflict in the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions of Ethiopia have heightened risks of trafficking for sexual exploitation as a form of sexual violence in conflict, the experts said.

“We are alarmed by reports of refugee and internally displaced women and girls in the Tigray, Afar, and Amhara regions being abducted while attempting to move to safer places,” they said. “We are concerned at the risks of trafficking, in particular for purposes of sexual exploitation, including sexual slavery.”

The UN experts raised serious concerns about Eritrean refugee women and children being at particular risk of trafficking for sexual exploitation, following abductions and displacement. “Urgent action is needed to prevent trafficking, especially for purposes of sexual exploitation, and to ensure assistance and protection of all victims, without discrimination on grounds of race or ethnicity, nationality, disability, age or gender,” the experts said.

They warned that children were at particular risk of trafficking for purposes of sexual exploitation especially in the Tigray region, where hundreds of children have been separated from their families. “The continuing lack of humanitarian access to the region is a major concern,” the experts said, urging immediate national, bilateral and multilateral measures to prevent all forms of trafficking of children and to ensure protection for all children.

Sufficient measures were not being taken to identify victims of trafficking, ensure protection and assistance and support their recovery in ways that fully takes account of the extreme trauma suffered, they said. “The failure to provide accountability for these serious human rights violations and grave crimes creates a climate of impunity, allows trafficking in persons to persist and perpetrators to go free,” the UN experts said.

They urged all relevant stakeholders to ensure that victims of trafficking can adequately access medical assistance, including sexual and reproductive health care services and psychological support.

The experts have been engaging with the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea.

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