Al Jazeera speaks to ‘Ahmed,’ a well-known people smuggler used by many young Ethiopians searching for a new life. (29 Apr 2015)
Al Jazeera spoke to ‘Ahmed,’ a well known people trafficking broker who many young Ethiopians in Addis Ababa have used to try and get to Europe.
Al Jazeera: Hello, I got your number from Gagi, sir.
AJ: I am calling you to know about migration routes, sir.
Ahmed: From where shall you start your journey?
AJ: From Addis [Ababa] – what do I need?
Ahmed: If you want to go to Sudan legally, you’ll need a visa from the Sudan embassy. If you want to cross without one – there are a lot of brokers in Metema [an Ethiopian border town with Sudan].
AJ: Either way, Shall I go to Metema by car?
Ahmed: If you are legal, you just get the bus and go. If you don’t have a visa there are mini buses that come to Addis every day at midnight. They will take you to Metema – ‘t’s a day’s journey.
AJ: Which is better?
Ahmed: If you want to travel faster, our way is better and more comfortable.
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AJ: How much money do I need to get to Metema from Addis?
Ahmed: About 500 birr ($25).
AJ: To Metema? How about a visa and other things?
Ahmed: If you use us, you don’t need more than that to reach Metema, but if you use the legal channels there are passport, visa, travel insurance fees. There’s also an interview at the Sudanese embassy where you might pay up to 4000 birr ($200). Because of the problem now, the price might have increased.
AJ: The price has increased?
Ahmed: Because of this problem, the Sudanese embassy may be restricting visa issuance but there are brokers there who can help you get a visa at about 10,000 birr ($500).
AJ: What happens after Metema?
Ahmed: In Metema we have places for you to stay. You do not have to go to Galabat [a Sudan border town].
AJ: That means I do not have to get into town?
Ahmed: La [No]. The border closes at 6pm. We have arrangements with hotels in Metema. That’s where you’ll stay. You’ll get a call at night. There are Sudanese border officials who will help you cross the border, their vehicles are not searched by security people. They will then take you to where you’ll sleep. The next day, you’ll be taken to Khartoum.
AJ: Where shall I get those people who are going to take me to Khartoum, Metema or inside Sudan?
Ahmed: Metema, Metema.
AJ: Can I contact them from Addis? Can I get their number and finish everything in Addis?
Ahmed: You have to meet them there.
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AJ: How much money do I need from there to Libya?
Ahmed: Libya? Between 45-50,000 birr ($2,175 – $2,400).
AJ: Do I need additional money after Libya?
Ahmed: In Libya, you and other people who are waiting to cross the sea decide what kind boat you want to use.
AJ: After that?
Ahmed: Once you decide, the people who are facilitating you commission for one to be built. Once the boat is ready, you choose one person among you to be trained on how to sail. Your facilitators will then give that person a compass and explain how to go.
AJ: So the type of boat we use has a cost implication right?
Ahmed: Yes, yes, the size of a boat has cost implication. If it’s a big boat the money needed from each of you will be more. The boat will be discarded once you reach the shores of Europe.
AJ: What’s the total cost including boat and everything?
Ahmed: Roughly 80,000 birr ($3,850). From Italy, if you want to go to France or Germany that will be a new cost.
AJ: Is there anything else I should know?
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Ahmed: Oh yes. You shouldn’t show any money to the people around you. You have to keep small amounts with you for survival and you must always hide it. If you want to pay for something, or buy something, you must do it secretly. Most of our payments are done through the phone and in stages.
AJ: Does that mean most of the payments will be done in Addis?
Ahmed: Yes, once you arrive there [in Libya] you call your family to transfer the rest of the money to the brokers/agents.
AJ: Thank you so much.