Two hundred suspected human smugglers have been detained as part of the Ethiopian government's efforts to stem the number of citizens trying to illegally migrate to Europe, a senior official said.
The government is looking for 80 other alleged smugglers who are conducting overseas operations, Ethiopian Federal Affairs Minister Shiferaw Teklemariam told the Ethiopian News Agency late Sunday.
“The detentions are part of the government's efforts to bring perpetrators to justice,” he said. “People should understand the fact that illegal migration is costing lives and leaving many injured. The youth in particular should stop considering migrating as an option and we are carrying out works to help in job creation at home.”
Molla Abo, the mayor of the city of Hosaena in southern Ethiopia, said many suspected human smugglers from the region have been arrested in the past few weeks.
“This is besides the education we are providing to the youth, parents and religious leaders about the problems of illegal migration,” he said.
Along with neighbor Eritrea, Ethiopia is the source of many of the migrants making the perilous journey by sea to Europe, often via Sudan and then Libya.
Ethiopia is drafting a new law to stiffen punishments for human trafficking in an attempt to stem a wave of dangerous migrations to Europe, the Ministry of Justice said.
Ethiopia's current laws stipulate prison terms ranging from five to 20 years for crimes related to human smuggling and a maximum fine of $2,500.