By Fauxile Kibet
Human traffickers have turned their trade on refugees travelling through the Horn of Africa to boost their dwindling returns, a new report says.
The report by the Mixed Migration Centre (MCM) says that more than 15% of refugees travelling north through the Horn of Africa were kidnapped during their journey last year.
The organization, which conducted the research in 20 countries and seven migration routes further, warns that kidnapping may increase as more people migrate to Europe through the Horn of Africa and North Africa.
According to Bram Frouws, head of MMC, the enforcement of strict migration rules and closedown of borders have left more people even more vulnerable to abuse by smugglers.
“Usually, families receive a phone call from kidnappers saying they have their family member and demanding a ransom. Sometimes they can hear the voice or even the torture happening on the phone to force them to pay. Ransoms are often about $2,000 (£1,570),” said Frouws.
He adds that smugglers are turning to kidnapping in a bid to diversify their dwindling income due to a decrease in the number of people travelling through certain routes.
“The number arriving in Europe is going down – as a result of attempts to stop or control this migration, this means there are fewer clients for smugglers, maybe some of them are earning less or being pushed out of business. This could be a way to make it up,” Frouws opines.
The report adds that most of the kidnapped victims are held with the threat of actual use of violence while others are physically restrained. The research further revealed that the most vulnerable were Ethiopians.
Almost one in five of the 1200 Ethiopians interviewed by Mixed Migration Centre (MCM) said that they had been kidnapped at least once during their journey.
On the other hand, out of the 288 Sudanese people interviewed along the same route, 4% said they had been kidnapped.
Researchers believe this may be because most kidnappings take place in the Sudan, and that Sudanese people might be better at circumventing the risks, or that they might be starting their journeys beyond the most dangerous areas.
The organization further revealed that its researchers found out that across all migration routes, 615 people reported that they had been kidnapped at least once.
It also says that the most dangerous route was from Afghanistan to Europe, where around 8% of people reported they had been kidnapped at some stage along their journey.
“Media articles talking about tides of migrants, waves of migrants, migrants streaming into Britain – all of this really dehumanises people and presents migration as something that is really out of control,” said Frouws.