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Making Middle East migration safer for women

  • Published on
    August 28, 2023
  • Category:
    Human Trafficking, Prevention
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Irregular migration routes from Africa to the Middle East are increasingly being traveled by women and young girls that are looking for a better life. While traveling, many are falling victim to forced marriages or being trafficked into modern slavery while searching for a job in the Middle East once they arrive. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is providing services for migrants, including potential victims of trafficking, through their migrant response centers (MRCs) in the region.  

Trapped in an unending cycle of abuse 

The majority of migrants who take the Eastern Route, a migratory path that leads to the Gulf States, are men. The IOM reports that over the past two years the number of women taking this perilous journey has doubled, from 53,000 in 2021 to 106,700 in 2022. Many of these women travel through Bosaso, one of the last stops for those leaving the region via the Eastern Route. 

Fariida Musse, a staff member at Bosaso’s MRC, shared that many women who visit the MRC have been held hostage in forced marriages with smugglers, exploited for financial gain for several months before they finally escape. 

Musse said: 

 “Dozens of pregnant women come here alone and don’t know what to do with their babies.” 

Women at many of the MRCs in the region often arrive full of despair and horror due to the abuse they experienced along the Eastern Route.  

Trafficking is rising but funding is decreasing 

MRC centers across the region are providing free medical care, water, food, and information to migrants who arrive there. They are assisted if they want to return home or they receive referrals to other safe houses to get care tailored to their needs and get help planning safe next steps.  

IOM Chief of Mission in Somalia, Franz Celestin said: 

“If people had opportunities, they wouldn’t be risking their lives and traffickers couldn’t take advantage of them.” 

To address the lack of opportunities that often lead to irregular migration, those who decide to return home are given skills training, education courses, grants, and medical support. MRCs also provide free medical care, water, food, and information to those who plan to continue the journey to help reduce their vulnerability to trafficking in future.   

But funding for these programs has not kept pace with the increase, especially in women and girls, along the Eastern Route. This has led to gaps in support and increased vulnerability of being re-trafficked for many. 

Call for funding programs that help irregular migrants travel safely! 

Freedom United applauds the work of the IOM and the MRCs working diligently to support irregular migrants and help them stay out of the hands of traffickers. We call on governments everywhere to support these programs and create safe migration channels for all migrants. Sign our petition to promote safe migration to help end human trafficking.  


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