On my back from Nairobi last week, I ended up having some interesting conversations with a few Ethiopians who were also on the flight. I like these conversations because I end up meeting people from different walks of life with completely different perspectives and I learn a lot from them. The first conversation was with a group of three young Ethiopian men who, despite being at the check-in counter line, did not have any luggage with them. So I asked them if they were on transit or had lost their luggage. Their response was unexpected.
They had traveled to Nairobi after dealing with a job broker in Addis, who had secured them an employment in Oman. But to get their work visas and tickets, they had to travel to Nairobi where the Addis Ababa based broker’s associate would provide them with all of the documents. They get to Nairobi and that is when they find out that the Nairobi associate is refusing to process the documents of three people, he requires a minimum of fifteen people, each would have to pay USD 900. They somehow managed to get more people on board, each willing to pay the required amount. The broker then gives them their tickets and visas, and they begin to prepare for their journeys. But there was one catch; all of the documents were fakes.
They called the Nairobi and Addis contacts, no response. Neither one of the people they dealt with were available to answer their questions, let alone return their money. So minus USD 900 and potential employment, disappointed and shocked by what had happened to them, they had to lick their wounds and make their way back to Addis. A part of me could not believe it but another part is well aware that such things do happen, we hear it on the news, watch it on television and have somehow recognized it as an “acceptable” tragedy. What I think made it jarring for me is directly meeting someone who has gone through the ordeal.
While pondering on this conversation and taking my seat on the plane, I ended up next to an Ethiopian fellow who was on his way to Addis from Johannesburg. He told me about what challenges Ethiopians are facing in South Africa. Many of them migrate as refugees, a treacherous journey that costs so many lives. But once in South Africa, life is rough. He told me that there have been three deaths this past week alone and the bodies of the deceased are currently being transported to Addis to be received by their families. This, according to him, is just another week for Ethiopian refugees and migrants in South Africa.
The news mostly covers migrants crossing the border to Europe or heading to the Middle East, but the truth is that there are so many Ethiopians losing their lives while migrating within Africa, should we not be focusing on this as well? In his trip to Djibouti, Egypt and Sudan, the Prime Minister secured the release Ethiopian of prisoners in these countries, which is a commendable act, and a great start as this is just the beginning.
While Africa is currently working on negotiating, signing and implementing the largest free trade area agreement in the world, migration is among the issues to be taken into consideration. Securing relatively easy and safe movement within the continent will have a big impact on opportunities for African companies as well as young Africans to move around and work in different countries of the continent.
Earlier this month, the government of Italy officially announced that it will no longer accept vessels carrying immigrants on to its shores. This is a sad and very heart breaking situation. After all, Europeans were once on ships heading to the New World for better opportunities. Now that is ancient history, and they are the ones receiving such ships. I look forward where this too shall be ancient history, and the continent will be able to provide its citizens with the opportunities they are willing to risk their lives chasing.