The Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) announced on Friday it has helped free 15 nationals held captive by human traffickers in Sudan.

In a press statement, the MoFA said the 15 nationals were freed in recent days by the joint efforts of the Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum and Sudanese security forces.

The Ethiopian captives were forced by the human traffickers to call their relatives to pay ransom in exchange for the Ethiopians safety, the MoFA further said.

It’s estimated thousands of Ethiopians illegally enter Sudan every year either to work in the Sudanese informal sector or use it as a transit point on their way to be trafficked across the Mediterranean Sea to reach their destinations in Europe.

Despite a growing economy and public awareness campaigns on the danger of illegal migration by the Ethiopian government, it is reported that thousands of Ethiopians looking for better economic opportunities are trafficked annually to foreign countries.