Modern Day Slavery in Somalia

While Somalia has not had a strong structure for implementing laws over multiple years, some laws are basic. Some laws are found in so many or even all countries, meaning that they are structured on such a moral level that everyone can agree they are needed. One of these laws is the illegality of slavery. No country in the world outwardly condones the ownership of another human being. Yet, to this day, in every country in the world, there are people who break this law. There is no exception to this in Somalia, and as a state with many desperate people looking for options, there is even more opportunity for one human to force another into slavery. How does this happen though? And why? We may at least be able to scratch the surface of these answers when looking into how slavery has played its role in Somalia. 

Somalia and Slavery

According to many, Somalia is a state that is very vulnerable to modern slavery. This graph provided by the Walk Free Foundation states that Somali’s are the most vulnerable population to fall into slavery. They state that they measured this by assessing:


  • National anti-slavery policies to combat modern slavery;
  • The availability of human rights protections in a country;
  • The level of economic and social development in a country;
  • The level of state stability in a country; and
  • The extent of women’s rights and levels of discrimination in a country.

This is very frightening for the country. Essentially, what it is exemplifying, is that the lack of the stability in the country can lead many to desperation, and this desperation can lead to huge amounts of unwanted human trafficking. It is important to note that there is a difference between those who are looking for ways to be willingly trafficked out of the country, and those who are in situations that they did not ask for, and are forced into livelihoods that are not wanted. Jean-Phillipe Chauzy, the head of communications at IOM was quick to back this up in an article for The Guardian when discussing the huge numbers of Somali diaspora that are in the Dedaab refugee camp, as we discussed before as a city all its own. He states that “ it has increased the vulnerability of people to trafficking, smuggling and other forms of exploitation”. There are many stories told of how these dangers turn into reality.

Missing kidnapped, abused, hostage, victim woman with hands and legs tied up with rope in emotional stress and pain, afraid, restricted, trapped, struggle, terrified, threaten, locked in a cage cell.

Photo taken from Buzz Magazine

How are People Trafficked?

The Guardian article also tells the story of “Amina Shakir (not her real name)” who fled to Kenya, in search of a better life, but whose smuggler sold her and she was transferred to Nairobi to be sold again. City centers such as Dadaab and Nairobi are used as hubs for illegal human trafficking, while most of its victims are from rural areas. These huge city centers often come with areas that are not being monitored, but are still easily accessible, creating huge opportunities for black markets. The reality of those feeling, such as Amina, are very common for those in desperate need out of the country. Often, because these people are vulnerable and forced to put their lives in the hands of someone else, this can be taken advantage of quickly. Kenya is not the only place where markets thrive in Somalia, according to Refworld’s “2014 Trafficking in Persons Report – Somalia”, a lot trafficking pushes north, toward other African countries. They explain:

“Victims are reportedly primarily trafficked within the country from Somalia’s southern and central regions to the regions of Puntland and Somaliland in the north. In Somaliland, women act as recruiters and intermediaries to take victims to Puntland State, Djibouti, and Ethiopia for domestic servitude or sex trafficking.”

Once again, city centers in both Puntland and Somaliland are used to transport people from southern and rural Somalia up into other parts of Africa. This has become a huge problem for the autonomous state of Somaliland specifically. According to Hiiraan Online Somaliland has been creating more stringent laws against human smuggling since 2013, specifically on the smuggling of minors, especially because there have been so many stories of smugglers promising better lives to youth who then hold them captive in neighboring countries and demand ransom from parents in Somalia. The combination of hostage situations and selling of youth has lead to immense amounts of fear in the country for the safety of their youth. But besides ransome, what makes this business so large in the Horn of Africa. Let’s look into the reasons why human trafficking has become such a large business in this area.

What is the Reasoning?

More specifically, what is happening with those being trafficked out of Somalia? Why are people doing this to innocent victims who are attempting to flee the area for a better life?

1. Sex trafficking is a huge reason, and one brought up in almost every article. Hubbie Hussein, the director of WomanKind Kenya is able to explain in more detail where this need comes from. She states that: 

“From Nairobi many girls are sent to Mombasa, where underage girls are trafficked for sex tourism. They are taken to massage parlours or beauty shops, where contacts from tour operators and hotels come to select the ones they wish to take as sex workers in the tourism industry,”

This narrative provides explanation for why human sex trafficking is unfortunately so active in the world today, and she states that at least fifty girls are trafficked into Servant_or_slave_woman_in_MogadishuNairobi this way each week. But sexual exploitation is not the only reason people are trafficked, often times domestic servitude goes hand and hand with sexual exploitation, as pointed out by Refworld above.

2. The essay by Kathleen Fitzgibbon entitled “Modern Day Slavery?” also brings up a situation that has been large in Somalia, the use of children in warfare. While she states that this does not just happen in Somalia, she explains that many children in Africa are abducted and forced to fight in civil wars, which Somalia has been a part of for many years. There is a desperation in small militias to produce enough power to fight, and forcing people into militaristic slavery is one way that this has happened.

3. The final reason that I have come to find for people being trafficked out of the country is for the harvesting of organs. While the girl’s identity has not been made public, a story came out of Britain in 2013 stating that they had discovered a Somali girl who had been unwillingly smuggled into the country due to the desperation of transplants in Britain according to Life Site. Here, we see desperation coming from the beneficiary of this disgusting process instead of those who are ultimately being smuggled. This horrifying use of another person’s life is apparently not the only one that they discovered being forced to enter Britain for this purpose, but the first. Hopefully, it has lead to more strict rules in Britain that can attempt to seek and prosecute those forcing unwilling victims into twisted forms of modern slavery. It is good that Somaliland is attempting to enforce stricter laws against human trafficking, but we may only hope that Somalia is able to gain enough stability to do the same.


Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed