Let the People go! Travel ban does not solve the problem:- Temesgen Zewdie

October 29th, 2013 Print Print Email Email

The recent decision by the government of Ethiopia to ban domestic workers from traveling to the Middle East and Arab countries is myopic at best and stone-age governance at worst. Any sensible government would define the alleged problem and seek solutions without subjecting innocent people to lose their Constitutional and Universal Rights to travel to their places of choice. This type of draconian government decision can only happen in a one-party totalitarian state.

Any rational government would ask itself why its citizens choose to travel to another country by hundreds of thousands instead of staying put in their own country. Most people need income to live on, and support their families; and hence they need to work to earn money. The stagnant Ethiopian Economy does not create jobs; and when it does, you have to belong to a corrupt ethnic net-work Ruling party circle to secure employment. For the majority of the population who do not belong to this corrupt circle of thieves, the choice is to travel to an equally unenlightened savage environment to earn a living or starve. There are many Ethiopian domestic workers who have lost their lives and some seriously injured because of abuse by their employers during their stay in the Middle East, and Arab Countries. The fact of the matter is, domestic workers do not have much of a choice; it is either to stay in their homeland Ethiopia and starve, or flee the country to a lawless foreign land and a hostile environment; where human rights of workers are grossly neglected, or most of the time abused.

Any responsible government would investigate the cause of injustice, death, and injuries sustained by its citizens in a foreign land through its diplomatic mission in host countries; and seek diplomatic and legal solutions to mitigate the crisis; or better yet, make an honest and vigorous effort to accelerate the economic development of the Country to create conditions of employment available to all citizens without bias to ethnic favoritism, corruption, and nepotism which is rampant under the current administration. The people at the helm of power in our Country seem to have no clue, nor do they care about the right of the individual to work and support himself/herself and their family in any place of his/her choice as long as they meet the legal requirements of the host country. What is one supposed to do if not work and earn a livening?

I have argued both as a member of parliament (2005-2010), and as a member of the Opposition since then, that the double digit GDP economic growth propaganda of the Ruling elite is an illusion sometimes supported by International money lenders to systematically loot the country for their mutual benefit, while allowing the narrow ethnic Ruling cliques continue its misrule and pillage of the resources of the country to satisfy its insatiable desire for money, power, and ethnic chauvinism.

In Ethiopia, almost 70 percent of the urban youth is unemployed. To make matters worse, 20 percent of the rural population is flocking to the urban area in search of employment. Those who are capable of escaping the miserable economic deprivation and lack of freedom in their homeland flee the Country by tens of thousands endangering their lives; by any means necessary, legally or illegally. In 2009 alone over a hundred thousand Ethiopians have illegally crossed over to Yemen with the hope of reaching Saudi Arabia. An equal number of Ethiopians have also migrated to Sudan and Kenya in search of a better life. It would be an understatement to say that any responsible government would be alarmed by the mass migration, and the loss of life in the process. The Ruling Party just walk-up to this monumental national problem and the first step it took to mitigate the crisis was a travel ban to the Middle East and Arab Countries, without due consideration to the Natural, Constitutional, and Universal Rights of its subjects.

While unemployment is a source of despair for many Ethiopians, an equal number of urban consumers are stretched to the limit to meet their daily expenses because of the high cost of living instigated by the upward spiraling inflation. While the government purports inflation to be in the single digit using its mouth piece propaganda media machine, it is actually in the double digits which is attested by the escalating prices in the local markets for goods and services which have quadrupled in the past few years especially for agricultural commodities such as Teff, Corn, wheat, cooking oil, sugar, coffee etc….commonly consumed by the people of Ethiopia. The purchasing power of the local currency (birr) has depreciated almost 60 percent within the past four years, making life impossible for people with fixed income such as government employees, and retirees. This is a Country where 90 percent of the population earns less than two dollars a day; and where 5 to 8 million people are exposed to food insecurity at any given year. While the cost of living is extremely high because of the ravaging inflation, the Regime is busy flooding the economy with printed money, while at the same time widening the budget deficit, making an already bad situation worst. The Ruling Party refuses to use conventional macroeconomic tools to bring inflation under control for fear of deflating its shattered political image. The external debt of the country has ballooned to 15 billion dollars; without taking into account the 6 billion dollar international debt cancellations the government received in 2006 from Western Countries. In addition, the country suffers from shortages of foreign exchange, which has forced the current account deficit and the balance of payment to widen, which in turn has forced the government to reserve just enough money to cover a one month of imports. The Ruling Party has the distinction of running a continuous trade deficit with all its trading partners; not having a single instance of trade surplus with any international trading partner in the last 23 years of its dictatorial misrule of the Country. Who among us would not wish to flee from a country mired in social, political, and economic problems to last generations to come? Not only the domestic workers flee their country to the Middle East, and Arab Countries; the rest of us, living in various western countries, are proof to the atrocious social, economic, and political conditions in our country.

No government has the right to hold its citizens hostage by declaring a travel ban; the decision by the government to ban travel has fortunately pointed to the glaring inadequacy of the government in managing the social, political, and macro-economic governance of the Country. It is illegal to ban travel to any Country short of a military hostility between two countries. In a democratic society the right of a citizen to work and earn a living is legally guaranteed, and cannot be abridged by the whims of dictators.
In conclusion, I would like to suggest, what in my opinion, would be a common sense solution to the problem.
a) The source of the conflict between employer and employee should be researched, so that the government has facts and figures to base its future decisions.
b) Hostilities between employer and employees could be reduced if entrepreneurs in Ethiopia are encouraged to open training schools for migrant workers to learn the language, culture, tradition of host countries.
c) Trained government diplomats (courses in 101 International Relations would help), sensitive enough to seek legal and diplomatic solution to the conflict.
d) Networking with international Human Rights Organizations to highlight the problems in host counties.
Travel ban is not a solution. The underground movement to smuggle people out of the Country would begin in earnest because of your callous decision. The sooner you learn from your monumental mistakes the better for all of us.

The writer, Temesgen Zewde, is chairman of Foreign Relations Committee of the UDJP (Andenet). He was also member of parliament.

  1. Anonymous
    | #1

    Dear Ato Temesgen
    Have you talked to one of the people that go to work in some of these countries? No language except their local and no skill to trade. I travel on business extensively and I run into these girls often. They don’t even know how to fill a simple form but thosemthatbare hiring them are being told that they have complete high school and they can speak fluent english. I whole heatedly agree with the government. They have identified the problem. They need to put a system where there is added value to the skill these girls trade on. There is also a spirit behind the constitutional right that allows movement. That spirit forces governments to protect its people even if it seems like taking away rights. Our citizens are ill treated not only because the people that hire them are bad, because the brokers are telling lies about the skill level of these people. Please revisit your stand on this.

  2. Aacklog Abebe
    | #2

    Kebur Ato Temesgen:
    I, as an Ethiopian, oppose the ruling junta/gangester TPLF. But, I agree with the decicion to ban travel to the middle east. We all know the story of our sisters who get subjected to unbelievable cruelity and degredation. This experience has been a source of embarrasment and shame for all Ethiopians who are genuinly concernend for the welbing of our sisters and the name of our country. By the way, this decision by the TPLF gang, is not out of concern for our people, but out of fear of growning call to do something about it. Yes, we should also not forget that it is the TPLF themselves and their gangster enterprise that are ‘deporting’ our people for heafty price they squize out of those same poor people they are deporting. I would rather they die in their own country than in a foreign and very hostile land.

  3. Zerayakob Yared
    | #3

    መንግስት እያንዳንዱ ኢዮጵያዊ በሃገሩ ውስጥ በቀን ሁለት ጊዜ ጠግቦ የሚበላበትን ሁናቴ መስቻል አለበት::
    ከዚያ በላይ ያለውን Career መንኛውም ኢትዮጵያዊ በፈለገበት ቦታ ሊያስመዘግብ ይችላል:: ርሃብ ሊያጠቃኝ ነው ከሚል ስጋት ግን የሚሰደድ ኢትዮጵያዊ እንዲኖር ተገቢ አይደለም:: በተለይም ወደ ባርባሮቹ አረቦቹም ሆነ ወደ ሌላም ዘንዳ ከርሃብ ስጋት ተነስቶ የሚሰደድ ኢትዮጵያዊ መኖር አይገባውም:: መንግስት መንግስትነቱን የሚያስመሰክረው, ጥንት አዶላን በሙሉ በቀጥታ ወደ ጀኔባ እያሸጋገሩ, “ወሎ መሰደድ ልምድ ሆኖበት ነው እንጂ ተርቦ አይደለም” የሚለውን አይነት ጭካኔ በማሳየት መሆን የለበትም:: የአሁኖቹ ራሳቸው በየ ኤሽያው አገር ያከማቹትን ገንዘብ መልሰው ወደ ኢትዮጵያ በማምጣት እያንዳንዱ ኢትዮጵያዊ በቀን ሁለት ጊዜ ጠግቦ የሚያድርበትን ሁናቴ የማያስችሉ ከሆነ, ቢዘገይ የምፅአት ቀን እለት ወይንም ከዚያም ቀደም ብሎ “የሓውዜን ችሎት ቀን” ፍርዳቸውን ያገኛሉ::

    ምንም እንኳን እያንዳንዱ ሰው ሌላውን እያንዳንዱን ሰው የመውደድ ግዴታ ባይኖርበትም, ግን በስር መሰረቱ አብዮት የሚባለው ነገር የሚመጣው, የህብረተሰብ መሪዎች ነን የሚሉ ኢንተለክቸዋሎች ተበዳዩን ህዝባቸውን ስለወደዱ መሆኑን አንርሳ:: በአብዮት ስም ተነስቶ ተራ የ’looterነት መስክ ላይ መሰማራትና እናትና ልጅን ብቻ እያጣሉና እያናከሱ ማደር ግን ተራ ክርሚላንነት መሆንን መገንዘብ ያሻል::

    አብዛኛዎቹ “አብዮተኞቻችን” ግን በኢትዮጵያ ላይ ለማሳበቅ በጎን ተቀጥረው የተለቃቀሙ ተራ MISUSERS እንደመሆናቸው መጠን, በአባባላችን ተሳልቀውና ጭራሹንም ቤእኛ ላይ ተራ በሁለት እግራቸው የቆሙ ተናካሽ ውሾቻቸውን እንደሚለቁብን እየተገነዝብን ነው::

    ኢትዮጵያ ሆይ, ለሃገራቸውና ለህዝባቸው ተቆርቋሪ መሪዎች የሚመጥሉሽን ቀን ያምጣልሽ………!

  4. Zerayakob Yared
    | #4

    “Ethiopias’ political diplomacy Development and Mutual Benefit”, በሚለው ስር, on TOL:

    the propare work place for you is in the areas between Adi Grat and Adi Keyeh, as a ድረሰር:: And don’t forget to take your ሞክሸ from መቐለ with you:: You know, the guy, በተምቤን ህዝብ ላይ የጭንጋፉ ወጥ እንጨት ማማሰያ በመሆን, የጦር አይሮፕላኖች ለ’intimidation ጉዳይ, ምርጫ በሚል ሰበብ ሲያስበርር የነበረውን……………!

    Realeble report from GAHDI, which says, that you are በውጭ ሃይሎች የተያዘ የውጭ ሃይሎች አገልጋይ፣ በአንጎላችን ውስጥ ተቀርፆ እየረበሽን ይገኛል……..!

    Once Banda, always Banda…. ? Down with “Mobutus” in Äthiopien…..!

  5. Anonymous
    | #5

    Come on! Who are you trying to fool?
    The education system in Ethiopia especially, outside of Tigrae, has been going down and getting worse by design by TPLF regime. As a matter of fact, Ethiopians that are leaving their country without knowing a word of English, have more chances to learn and be educated outside of Ethiopia. The current regime that is known for its brutality and human-rights-abuse, didn’t ban work visas for the well being of the people. The regime, do not want Ethiopians to be educated and informed. period! This video sums it up:


  6. kentu
    | #6

    my grandfather to say when you are very weak kentu that means even you are not a human spiritual; so what about us still we demand our freedom through internet, demonstration for usa congress, taman beyene when to thing what we are doing in human history no one in history get his freedom such kind of stragle get I thing we need to revise our stuation we have one option fight for freedom or be a slave

  7. Anonymous
    | #7

    In response to Temesgen Zewde’s “Let the people go! A feminist prospective.
    By: Hirut Mesfin
    October 31, 2013.
    I feel compelled to respond to this article. Whilst I am in agreement with the gist of Temesgen Zewde’s argument, about constitutional right to travel, the problem of unemployment and the lack of alternatives, I am deeply troubled with the underlying tone of the message which reveals indifference to the plight of young Ethiopian women. This attitude is not unique to the writer; it is manifested across the board. I had an opportunity to raise this issue with Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Tedros Adhanom. He too, pretty much concluded that it was “their right” to travel and no one can stop them. Nobody wants to address what these women are subjected to, before, in the run up to, during and after they travel- it is deeply disturbing. The whole thing is slavery dressed up as modern day travel in search of work.
    This is an issue very close to my heart. As an Ethiopian woman and a lucky one to have gained a decent education from a young age, I have been observing some disturbing elements about the raw deal the vast majority of Ethiopian women get both at home and abroad.
    Temesgen Zewde referred the government travel ban as “myopic, Stone Age and draconian”. Sir, what is myopic, Stone Age and draconian is a society and its government who accept the concept and practice of young, uneducated, ill equipped, ill informed desperate girls from poverty stricken families from Tigray in the North down to Arba Minch in the South-all being shipped out of their country daily in their thousands to their demise in the Middle East! That should shame us all!!!
    My issue with this article is, it wants to uphold the constitutional right to travel while ignoring the right of the individual/s basic need being trampled on. Why should disadvantaged sixteen, fourteen even thirteen year old girls who should be at school have to be the bread winners of their families in the first place? Why should they bear the brunt of economic upheaval of Ethiopia that claims to be growing 10 % per annum? Who is going to call for a ban for this state and society sponsored gender specific abuse and neglect of women?
    Hardly a day goes by without Arab News outlets presenting some horrific story of an Ethiopian girl being murdered, raped, burnt with hot iron or objects being thrown at them including hot water. A lot of them left disfigured; lately, the news include the girls themselves being accused of doing the killing; perhaps born out of the sense of helplessness when faced with so much cruelty and brutality. It is truely heart breaking. There are also those who did not make it to the news. They have either perished from the face of the earth unaccounted for or those, who just grit their teeth and bear it and continue to send their blood money for which they sacrifice their body & soul.
    So bad is the situation now in the Middle East, we have even become a fair game for some News Paper comedy pages; they are depicting Ethiopians as cheap and easy to abuse in their caricature. This was picked up by an Indian man who kindly made a complaint against it. Sir, this is how our constitutional right to travel which you are advocating for, in reality looks like. Please continue to read.
    Some 80% of Mental Health patients in Saudi hospitals are Ethiopians another high level is found in Lebanon! In Libya, the Sudan and the Sinai desert, Ethiopians are killed for their kidneys and other organs.
    There is a daily horror show of mentally disturbed young women being dumped back from Beirut, Sanaa, Dubai, Bahrain, Saudi you name it; at Addis Ababa airport. Simultaneously, a whole new load is ready to take off. Young, frightened, confused girls walking up and down the airport; all dressed in Islamic dress code, they are easily identifiable. A lot of them seek out for a face that looks helpful and ask quietly “ Beirut?”, which seems to be the popular destination.
    Others come in group and get herded into a cordoned zone as if they are sheep for slaughterhouse and they sit on the floor, mind you, they are air passengers like any other who paid their airfare but they are told to sit on the floor!!! Airline staffs speak and treat them very badly. It is also easy to spot the traffickers locals and foreign alike mingling with passengers keeping an eye on their human stock as they search for their check-in desks to their respective destination to the Middle East.
    It is surreal. And yet, everyone, business people, tourist, locals go about their business without a wince in their eye about these girls. So visible and yet wholly ignored and oblivious. If this is happening at the centre of modern transportation and legal travel arrangements in a fairly metropolitan city, spare a thought, for those who are travelling by foot at border towns such as Humera, Moyale, Dewele and other connective towns to the outside hell. We should not forget the dead bodies of Ethiopians that sprinkled en route from Yemen to Saudi either!
    In Yemen they actually have a camp where they keep Ethiopian migrants (Newsnight 18 and 19 of July 2013). Here, the Bedouins kidnapped and beat them day and night, I saw men with their hands decapitated. The girls visibly young, spoke with soft accents which hints they originated from Wello and Gonder region. They talked about the daily rape they encountered and the thousands of dollars they try to assemble from relatives in other countries even from Ethiopia in the hope of being freed. Sometimes, they are passed and sold to other captors. The scale of abuse is truly shocking and beyond imagination. Migration is not a new phenomenon but this sort of barbaric act of savagery is just another level that I have no word for it! The problem is so prevalent, local as well as international NGOs have tried to do their bit but the scale of the problem is so huge, they cannot deal with it.
    I agree, travel ban may not be the solution but a call to lift the ban without Safe Guarding those who travel abroad for work is not the answer either. Government and society has to show a duty of care to their fellow citizens. More so, ignoring and maltreating Ethiopian women and using their cheap and abused labour as a meal ticket for the huge economic deficit in the country must stop! It is inhumane, shameful and economically not viable. The sooner we deal with this deep seated issue the better.
    Only 29% of Ethiopian women can read and write. (Really shameful!) Out of the entire female population in Ethiopia, only 5% have access to higher education. (World Economic Forum Report 2013). Women work on the field as well as in the home under bad conditions. They are badly represented in public offices and now, even their daughters are getting a raw deal in an endless cycle of gendered poverty in what is supposed to be a better era for us all. This is a problem of an epic scale. Instead of burying our head in the sand, and just claim that people have to make a living somehow, however horrendously, when are we going to address the correlation between female poverty and female migration and the Ethiopian society’s indifference to this growing problem? We need to bring this to the for front of social discussion more so to government policy and decision makers.
    Migration and remittances form up to 70% in GDP for some countries. http://focus-migration.hwwi.de/index.php?id=1200&L=1 but these people don’t go through what Ethiopian’s go through. Why? Countries that make the most out of the global labour market are those that invest in the education of their citizens. They send trained and skilled labour. In return, they make huge gain economically and socially. They also provide reliable and fast money transfer system for their people abroad. Consulate services are prompt and facilitate a system for the protection of their citizens. Their labour and employment rights are negotiated and protected for by the sending government. If we are to tap to the global labour market in a Just and appropriate manner, the Ethiopian government should learn from these countries and treat its citizens as valuable assets not just as mere cash cows!

    The writer can be reached at hirutfaj@hotmail.co.uk.

  8. Anonymous
    | #8

    What is your e-mail address. It is not shown anywhere.

  9. anonymous
    | #9

    the answer is simple. breed slowly. if we breed slowly we wont have this problem.a poor man meets apoor woman . they are both illiterate or semi literate. they start to breed. 20 years ago we were 40 something million , now we are 80 million.the cycle of poverty continues….,we have to blame ourselves ………the ansewr is simple birth control ……

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