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The tiny nation of Djibouti forms the American front in the War on Terror in Africa and the Middle East. Both the repressive government and the American military closely watch over everything. However, when there are signs of human trafficking there suddenly appears to be a blind spot.

The more migration, the greater the risk of human trafficking
Djibouti, positioned at the crossroads of the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, is a transit country for 100.000 migrants and refugees per year. Their journeys start in Ethiopia or Somalia with as an end goal the Middle East. The more migration, the greater the risk of human trafficking, as is stated by the U.S. State Department in the most recent Trafficking in Persons Report. Djibouti has been on the watchlist ranking of this report since 2011. Without improvement it should be downgraded to the lowest category, countries in this group are excluded from trade deals and financial aid.

Western militaries break the rules
OneWorld travelled to Djibouti and found various signs of human trafficking, among which a lively party-scene in the capital. American contractors and other foreign militaries break their armies’ code of conduct. They drive under influence and pay Ethiopian and Somali migrants (who are often undocumented) for sex.

Signs of human trafficking watered down
Why is it that indications of human trafficking, which are mentioned in reports by other departments of the American government, did not end up in the Trafficking in Persons Report? How can it be that Djibouti has received a waiver from an automatic downgrade for two years in a row while their new plan to combat trafficking still has not been implemented? Signs of human trafficking seem to be consequently watered down because of political motivations. Djibouti is of great importance to the U.S., as a hub for drone operations and intelligence, and as a base of counterterrorism operations against Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda. It is a place where terror suspects, according to watchdog groups, have allegedly undergone CIA rendition linked to torture and ill treatment.

The longread Fear & Loathing in Djibouti takes the reader on a journey through this East African country in eight chapters: passing by the refugee camps, the sex shacks at the side of the high way and into the sleazy night clubs. This publication shows the effect the presence of a world power such as the United States of America has on a country. Read now: OneWorld’s first longread on Djibouti.

Over de auteur


Sanne Terlingen is onderzoeksjournalist voor OneWorld. Ze won de Loep aanmoedigingsprijs 2013 voor haar verhaal over kindersekstoerisme in …
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Over de auteur

Hannah Kooy is freelance journalist, gespecialiseerd in Amerikanistiek. Zij doet onderzoek naar de Amerikaanse buitenlandse politiek, de …
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