Author: Prof. Dr. Mirjam van Reisen

Year: 2016


Between 2008 and 2014 a new form of human trafficking emerged in the Sinai, called trafficking for ransom. The situation was studied by myself, investigative journalist Meron Estefanos, and Prof Dr Conny Rijken. In follow up research in 2015 and 2016, I travelled regularly to the camps in Northern Ethiopia where many unaccompanied minors arrive from Eritrea as refugees. The youngest unaccompanied child I met there was five years old,
accompanied by a sibling only a few years older.1 I made these journeys with PhD student Selam Kidane.


The ongoing and deepening tragic situation in Eritrea, which motivates these children to take such a hazardous journey, and the desperation that underpins their situation, came as a shock, as did the vulnerability of these children to the trafficking networks. It is a deeply worrying situation. The increased attention on Eritrean unaccompanied minor refugees underlines the need for a deeper understanding of the reasons for their vulnerability and the modalities by which they fall into the hands of trafficking gangs and (temporarily) even become part of them.


This report has particularly benefited from the interviews carried out and shared by Meron Estefanos. It has also benefited from the input of Africa Monitors, which investigated the subject through their network. I am grateful for their contribution. I would also like to thank Susan Sellars-Shrestha for her careful editing of the report.

Mijam Van Resien, 2 June 2016