The State, Families and Disappeared Migrants in Ethiopia
Keywords:migration, missing persons, borders, human trafficking, family
Each year, nearly half a million Ethiopian migrants depart the country irregularly towards Europe by crossing the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea, but also traveling to the Gulf States via Djibouti, the Red Sea and Yemen, and to South Africa through the Indian Ocean or several African countries in between. Regardless of the migration route they pursue, thousands of Ethiopian migrants have died or gone missing. Despite the ubiquitous and regular coverage of migrant deaths in global media, there is limited understanding of the impacts that these deaths and disappearances have on their loved ones and the roles of the state in preventing this. While much has been written about the tragic circumstances leading to their deaths and disappearances, much less is known about how their families search for missing migrants, including the structural and institutional challenges they encounter in the process, and how their overlapping experiences can better inform good practices. This article thus explores 1) the causes and conditions of missing 2) identifies the challenges and needs of families in Ethiopia who have relatives who went missing or died in the context of international migration and 3) maps the relevant laws, policy and institutional frameworks already in existence, its gaps as well as the actors and their roles relevant to the topic. Data for this article is generated through interviews with families and stakeholders, policy reviews as well as participant observation and desk research which was carried out in Summer 2020 and Spring 2021.
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