Sell Me the Oranges’: Change in Migrants’ Worth across the Ethiopia-Sudan Border


  • Gezahegn Kiya


Ethio-Sudan border, mobility, migration industry


The people in Metema Yohannes, a small town along the Ethiopia-
Sudan border, used to refer migrants as oranges, implying a fruitful
business for all. Migrants, for long, have been a source of income as
well as conflict in this area located on western part of the Ethiopian
border. In 2015 alone, an estimate of 14,000 to 32,400 migrants
crossed to the Sudan or further to Libya and Egypt using this
border town. With no accurate statistics of migrants who use this
route, the migration industry along this route is estimated to be
worth 203 million USD annually.
To the argument of many, despite government efforts to tackle
irregular migration, different factors and change in context
strengthened irregular migration routes that put migrants’ life at
risk on a different level. Selling of migrants as merchandize,
poaching of migrants, organ trafficking have become a common
phenomenon. Following the strict border control, the cost of
migration has also increased. This paper thus looks into such
changes in migrants’ value and safety brought by state actions and
inter-state relations.