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A state-incorporated business: the migration economy along the Ethiopia–Sudan border town of Metema

Kiya Gezahegne, Department of Social Anthropology, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia

Abstract

The pattern of migration from Ethiopia to Sudan, through the Metema border town, has proved complex and is expanding, making it difficult for government bodies to control and manage.

Regardless of government efforts, every year substantial numbers of irregular migrants have been observed crossing the border into Sudan, some of them with the objective of going on to Europe. The migration channels and networks have changed and adapted to the evolving contexts and situations on both sides of the border. Irregular migration from Ethiopia thus remains a vibrant business. This paper explores how some members of the state, and brokers, are involved in this business of migrant mobility, including in human smuggling and trafficking. It shows how government attempts to stop irregular migration have opened a route that is less safe for migrants. In addition, anti-human trafficking initiatives taken by the state are driving up the market value of human smuggling, making it more expensive for migrants and more profitable for those involved in the business. By analysing evidence gathered from Metema, the paper considers the changes in migrants’ value and safety brought about by state actions.

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Top image: UN Photo/Albert González Farran

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